The White Vest

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
When we see something of beauty, naturally, we must have it. However, we don't realize that with that comes the cost of things we'd never imagined. While trying to protect, will we end up destroying?

Submitted: March 24, 2011

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Submitted: March 24, 2011

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The White Vest
The smell of stale linen greeted me as I eased the door open, wincing with each and every creak and groan. It’s comforting, as it is mixed with the scent of my sister. For a few moments I simply stood there, the door half-open, my mind blanker than the walls in the room. Closing my eyes, I rested my head against the doorframe, gazing softly through the crack offered to me like a tease, an incentive. Come on, why don’t you…look inside? Just a peek. The need to do so was daunting, springing forward from my heart and racing through all the veins mapping my body. Yet, my fingers refused to push the door any farther. Why...
The winds of the closet caught against a light piece of fabric, gently tossing it into the air. I could see it through the crack, a flicker of gray among the black. At first it appeared to hover, float. Then it dropped to the floor, the ends flailing upwards like an anchor sinking to the depths of the ocean. Sure enough, it was all but invisible to me now. Breathing jaggedly, heavily, my hands found their strength, slamming the door open before my arm could act to pull them back. The door bounced off the wall with a slam. Wood splintered. The hinges squealed as it slowed, finally coming to a stop with a weary whine. Light from behind me filtered in, pale lines of yellow crawling up the closet walls. What it rested on was familiar to me. Baby blue jackets with faded buttons, coats with the zippers long off the track. And in the back corner, a pile of sweatpants. My sister wore sweatpants everywhere, to the store, to the mall, to the gym. The only place she didn’t wear them was Church.
Carefully, I leaned down, sliding my hands underneath a pair and scooping them out, holding them cradled in my arms like a child.This pair, her ‘sweatiest sweat pants’, I remembered with a smile, were her jogging pants.The red T-shirt she wore in a combo with the black pants drooped from its hanger, seemingly lonely without its companion. Quietly, I smoothed out the creases of the pants, fished out a hanger from underneath a couple shoes, and clipped the pants onto it, hanging them beside the shirt. It only made it look that much more depressing.
My sister, Veria, was only 22 years old when she died. Car accident, right by the park. Near her favorite flowers. The dandelions had been trampled by police and ambulance workers as they hurried to rescue my sister. It was too late, however: She had died upon impact, as the cops tend to say, DOE. Dead on arrival. How ironic that it spells ‘doe’. The car smashed right into her, just like it would a doe. In a way we were all glad for that, she never suffered or felt pain, but being the selfish person I am, I wish she would’ve been alive a while longer, so I could hold her hand, and promise that I won’t eat the last gingerbread cookie while she’s at the hospital. But she had left me, and that promise remains unofficial. However…I tilt my head slightly to the right, and my eyes fasten on white. The White Vest. All these years had done it little damage, for the feathers adorning it pearled white as ever, the unstained satin peering out from the neck-cut. My sister’s treasure, her pearl. She had gotten it as a birthday present, on June 9th.
Veria strode past, her sneakers smacking lightly against the polished floors of the mall. I watched them make streaks across the floor, marking her path like the paint used on hiking trails. Vaguely I wonder if the mall officials would be bothered. Mainly, I didn’t care.My sister looked wonderfully, truly happy. Her arms acted as railings for her bags, wearing the looped handles as if they were bracelets. They looked heavy and bulky, yet she showed no indication of this; every so often she would toss her head back towards us, blonde hair swaying to the side, and smile so widely it seemed her face would pinch into that expression, forever cursing her to smile. Though for her, that probably would’ve been a blessing. A particular bracelet caught her attention as it sparkled from its velvet roost, and she scrambled over to the window, pressing her nose against the glass. I followed suit, standing behind her, hands stuffed into the pockets of my sweatshirt. It was Veria’s 16th birthday, and we were treating her to an all-expenses-paid shopping trip. My mother had been saving up for today for months. No, we’re not a poor family, but not rich either. Our world was a rainbow; we were not blinded by green, nor blind to green. However, we had wanted to treat Veria to something nice on her birthday. She was lapping it up, making bills disappear like a magician once our mother had thoroughly convinced her that the money was sparable. Wrapped around her arms were currently bags from several clothing stores, two purses, bags from beauty salons…and now a silver bracelet.
She dashed over to me, grinning and twisting the bracelet so that it caught the reflection of the lights and gleamed.
“Look, Natalie! A real sliver wristband, and all mine!”
She twirled, the moment graceful yet hindered by the gigantic load she sported. Many people turned, and gave her a look. I chuckled, slightly tapping the band with my finger.
“It’s a bracelet, not a wristband. And don’t do that in public, it’s embarrassing.”
Veria blinked, and turned her head around, like she was just noticing the horde of other people in the mall. She shrugged, twinkle lighting up her eyes.
“Who cares what it’s really called, and what they think? What matters is what I make of it.”
With that she twirled again, chanting something about shoes, heading towards the back of the store. Unable to stop myself, I laughed, and walked behind her, joining in the chant even though people stared and snickered and shook their heads. This was my sister, and I was going to make the best of the time we had together. Assuredly.
The back of the store consisted on closed-down shops, much to my sister’s disappointment. Our mother tagged behind quietly as we hopped from door to door, hoping that knobs weren’t stone-still, that there was a man or woman behind the counter. However, each store we ran into was stoically dead, no one to be seen. But my sister was persistent, rounding corners and slipping through hallways. Finally, at the very end of the 5th hallway, was a small store. Le Destin stood proudly over the glass doors, the letters a stunning turquoise. Veria grabbed my hand and tugged me forward, practically sliding across the floor as she pulled me to the door. Once inside it was clear that this was a fancy store. Fur coats flaunted their extravagance in the front windows, emeralds, rubies, and diamonds embedded themselves into the heels of high heels, and there were jeans that costed well over the amount we spent on groceries. A glance back caught my mother and her look of paranoia, carefully sliding past a set of china. If we broke anything here, it would be hell to pay, even on my sister’s birthday. Taking that to mind, I disentangled myself from her grasp, and set to work on avoiding the edges of the tables home to the merchandise, never once rubbing against the clothes rails bordering our path. It was unlikely that we would be able to afford anything here: I’d seen the price tag of an umbrella boasting to be a hefty $75, and we’d already spent over the amount my mother had set aside for today. If one more thing was added to Veria’s hoard, there wouldn’t be any money to fund my soccer ambition!
My thoughts ceased when I spotted her, tucked into an alcove behind the shelves. Moments later I was beside her, looking at what she’d discovered hidden in this place with my mouth loosely hanging. It was a vest, made from the soft down feathers of a white goose. It looked like the feathers had been dipped in glue, they were so white. They had been so professionally placed that they covered the seams of the vest; the only evidence that it wasn’t part of the bird simply ripped away was the cut for the neck and arms. Inside it was just as white, but this time the seams showed. However, they were not offending, instead a bright silver, criss-crossing in tiny x’s. Her hands traced the vest, resting on the feathers as she turned to me, expression hard and serious.
“Natalie. I need this. It’s supposed to be mine.”
My eyebrows rose as I leaned over her, my arm brushing hers, and she winced. Ignoring that, I hunted for the price tag, finding it clipped to the back, pulled it in front of us both, flipping it over so the price showed clearly. At first, I laughed. Then, I took a second look, breath hitching in instinctual disbelief. 40 dollars. The disbelief was contagious; my sister looked like she might fall over at any moment. She grew immune soon, however, squealing in joy. Carefully she unhooked its hanger, heading back the way we came with me struggling to keep up. Supporting the vest with her other hand while she brisked through the store, she scanned the aisles for our mother.
A pair of raspberry gloves stole my attention, and I stopped, picked them up, evaluating their worth. The material was soft and smooth, much like the plush you’d find in a hand-made teddy bear. Thinking of my gloves back home, worn teal ones that still covered my skin, but we getting unpleasing to the eye, I came to the conclusion that I needed this particular pair of gloves. My heart sank when checked the price; my hopes that they were as cheap as the white vest were crushed when 62 became my least favorite number. Gingerly I set them down, jogging to catch up to my sister.A lady behind the counter snapped her fingers at me, eyes narrowing, her hand losing its grip on her pen. Immediately I slowed to a walking pace, fastening my gaze to the floor and continuing my search. I didn’t want to see the disapproval.
I found my mother and sister in the front right corner of the store, my mother frowning at Veria as she hectically tried to convince her of the vest’s importance. She flashed the price tag, causing my mother to do a double-take, and raise the tag to her own face. “Why’s it so cheap?”
I heard her say, walking up to stand beside my sister. It was clear that she thought the vest was a hoax, a fake, a trick.It was clear that my sister also saw this fact, and was becoming desperate for a hook to reel our mother in with.
“It’s not as of large a size as the other things here! And it probably hasn’t been bought because people can’t fit themselves into it, or they think it’ll be too much trouble to care for, and um...”
Words were tripping over words, a game of leapfrog gone wrong.For a second I felt relieved, that she wouldn’t be getting the vest and I wouldn’t be getting my gloves. Instantly I was ashamed that I was letting envy taint the love I had for Veria.
“It’s true, mom,” I said, praying that the right words came at the right time. “…It looks smaller than a petite.”
She looked at me, then took another glance at the vest, analyzing the size. Then she shrugged, turning and waving a hand over her shoulder.“Fine, come on Veria, let me buy your vest. But this is it, do you hear me?” my mother asked sternly, jabbing my sister in the arm with a slim finger. Veria nodded vigorously, sending her bags and the vest into tiny shudders. As we set the vest on the counter, the woman from before criticizing me from within her green irises, my sister flipped her head backwards, and stared at me. The expression was odd, setting my nerves on fire a spark at a time. I shifted my feet, opening my mouth to speak- “Thank you…thank you, Natalie.” Blinking, I grinned, mind coasting back to the gloves lying on the table. “Hey, don’t mention it.”
Throughout the entire walk to the car, Veria clutched on the bag hiding her treasure, fingers digging into plastic. She seemed convinced that a random creep would swipe it from her, and no amount of convincing would suggest to her otherwise. Her nails stayed buried in the bag, her body tensed in nervousness. When we finally did get to the car, she let out a sigh of immense relief, sinking into her seat with her bags resting at her feet like obedient dogs. The vest’s cocoon sat upon her lap, the prideful cat. She buckled herself, letting out a couple loud pants.
“Oh god, you guys! What a wonderful birthday! Thank you!”
With that she threw herself over the side of the seat, catching me in an arm hold. Ruffling up my hair with her free hand, her other was still pinning the bag to her lap, she smothered me with touching, yet annoying, sisterly love.
“V-V-errie!”
I gasped, shoving her back into her seat. Despite our age difference of three years, I found myself to be the strongest, noting it yet again as she picked herself up from the side of the seat, frowning.
“What’s wrong, Verrie?” I teased, knowing fully well that my sister despised that nickname.
‘It makes me sound like some stingy shampoo’ she always said, wrinkling her nose and laughing like the bubble of said shampoo had suddenly floated up and tickled her nose. Instead she glared at me, eyes burning in rage.
“Don’t do that again, Nat.” she snapped, resorting to her own nickname assault.
Normally I’d take this as a chance to start a banter war, but the tone of her voice made me reconsider, and decide against it. Gently, she began smoothing out the bag, untying the handles to peek inside at the vest. Veria sighed softly, reassured that the vest was fine, turning her attention back to me afterwards. Noticing me and my startled appearance, she reached out, setting her hand on my shoulder.
“I’m sorry…it’s just..I don’t want anyone to make me cause it the slightest bit of harm.”
I nodded dumbly, slowly turning my attention to the road as we backed out of the parking slot, slipping onto the highway.
It had begun raining by the time we got home, fat raindrops hurtling down from above and slapping onto the tops of our heads. Veria carefully tucked her bags under her arms and dashed for the door, vanishing into the house. I hadn’t even unclipped my seatbelt. My mother shook her head, slinging her purse over her shoulder. “Your sister…you two truly are related.” My unamused stare amused her, at least. Together we walked up the sidewalk, her twirling the keys, now unneeded, around a finger. Our eyes met at the step, stopping at the same time. A second or two ticked by before I put a foot on the step, raising myself onto the porch, and walked inside the house. There were only a few moments of silence before I heard the familiar crunching of plastic. Smiling to myself, I shrugged off my damp sweatshirt, tossing it in the baskets of laundry upon passing them. My black turtleneck still was hanging; my mother has insisted. ‘“If we toss it in the dryer, it’ll get filthy!”’ She had exclaimed. Like that mattered, though. When something is black, it gets all sorts of debris on it throughout its wearing. Going through something slightly more rough such as a dryer wouldn’t make too much of a difference.
“You’re really in love with that, huh?”
Veria whipped around, mouth agape until she saw who it was leaning against the doorframe, hands on the back of her head.
“Natalie, don’t do that. The walls will tumble down!” she smirked, putting on a mock face of horror, gently setting the vest on her dresser. Inside, I laughed.
“Very funny, but if that’s true, then perhaps you should not be sitting on your bed, then?”
I drew out the words, glad that I had thought of a suitable comeback. Usually that was more my sister’s specialty. Mostly everything was her specialty; I was blatantly normal. She tossed a pillow at me, huffing. I tried to catch it, but it ended up hitting me right in the nose. Veria giggled, leaping onto her bed and patting beside her as I glowered from behind the pillow. Hesitant, I set the pillow down first, then sat on the mattress, folding my legs underneath. There was an assortment of hair-ties laid on the blanket, as well as different-colored post-it notes. Grinning, she handed me a red sharpie, grabbing a blue one for herself.
“Let’s write some notes.” She said, already uncapping her marker.
She often wrote these for her friends, or even herself: There were notes stuck to her closet door, and all over her walls. Ones with sayings like ‘Live until your heart gives out, and love until your life gives out.’ and ‘Life’s a dream; you make it what you want.
I opened the red sharpie, smelling the strong and enticing scent waft free of its closed chamber. But, you weren’t supposed to smell sharpies. No matter how sweet they smelled, they would eventually rot your brain. I tore a green sheet of the pad, tapping it absently. What to write? Peering at my sister from the corner of my eye, I caught her laying on her stomach, legs up above her back, crossed at the ankle. But I couldn’t see what she was writing through her mane of blonde. I scowled, then looked back at my note. My mind was a blank, nothing coming out or going in. Suddenly, I had it. Hastily scribbling it down lest I forget, I filled the green slip with red words of meaning. ‘You may reach several blanks in life. Like in tests, blanks are meant to be filled. All blanks are part of a test.’ Satisfied, Iset the marker down beside it, staring down with a slight smile. I felt my sister shift, and sure enough, she leaned over me an instant afterward, grabbing and then holding my note between slender fingers. Nodding quickly, she stuffed it in my hands, grabbing blindly behind herself for something. She found it, and handed that to me as well. It was her note. Carefully, I pulled hers out in front of my face, careful not to bend the edges. She and I both hated that. At first, I didn’t see the big deal. Instead of a quote, this time Veria had drawn the sky, empty aside from the sun. Shrugging, I tried to hand it back, replying with a simple:
“Pretty.”
She looked at me like I’d grown candles from my ears, shaking her head, snatching the note back, as well as my own. She fanned them out in her hands in front of her face like a card player, tapping them with her fingers.
“Don’t you see? Our sheets have the same meaning. I drew a sky, you wrote about blanks. The sky is one vast blank.”
At this I titled my head, narrowing my eyes in confusion. The sky? A blank?
“How?” I whispered, locking my eyes with hers.
As if explaining it to a small child, she set her head beside mine, our cheeks lightly touching as she gestured to the notes.
“You said that blanks were waiting to be filled, right? Well, the sky waits to be filled with clouds during the day, white, fluffy masses of water vapor, and awaits the stars at night, which almost seem to stretch the sky by its seams. So in that sense, the sky is a blank, and all blanks are skies.”
It made sense, in a beautiful way. Slowly, I reached out, stroking the sun with my finger.
“I also said that all blanks are part of a test. What subject is the sky in?”
Tapping my nose, Veria opened her tin box, which contained dozens of the little squares. She set our notes on top of the pile, bringing a finger to her lips, then making her hands a wall in front of her face, so I would be the only one to hear. I tipped closer to her so I could decipher the hushed whisper she gave me.
“The teacher doesn’t give out hints.”
It was one week later, and my sister was in the bathroom, brushing her hair with long, smooth strokes. It bended to her will, static and stray hairs vanishing as soon as they were spotted. It had been awhile since she’d had split ends as well; she had went to get it cut a couple weeks ago, but once again it hung down to her hips. Several people wished they could have her hair for its beauty and hardiness. Despite this however, my sister refused to do anything with it other than wear it natural, or in a ponytail or bun. Today it was in a neat bun fastened into place with brown ribbons. Impatiently, I tapped my foot against the wooden floors, catching her attention as intended.
“Come on, we’re running late! Stop primping.”
She rolled her eyes, and turned back to the mirror, pinning her hair securely into place with bobby pins when it turned particularly determined. Pinning one copper pin between her teeth, she stretched a length of hair toward the back, murmuring through her teeth.
“Relax, will ya? It’s only Church.”
She finished her hair, clipping the final pin into place with a victorious grin. Whipping around, she grabbed me by the arm, tugging me out of the bathroom.
“Let’s go!” she breathed, letting go of my arm as we entered the kitchen. There our mother and father were scarfing down their breakfasts, my mother dressed in a yellow sundress, and our father in a simple, yet charming, suit and tie. I adorned a lovely rosemary skirt, with a white top. I’d also borrowed my friend Joice’s pearls, which hung loosely around my neck. No doubt that I would be keeping a close eye on them. Even if it was Church, and in the presence of God, you never know what people might think or do. Veria was wearing her beloved white vest. It complimented her face and hair amazingly, and to top it all off she was wearing a silver skirt complete with dazzling sparkles, with white shoes. It was obvious that she taught highly of the outfit herself the way she’d glance in the glass of the windows as she passed, making sure it still molded to her body. By the time we got to the Church however, she was tense. From the moment we pulled in the parking lot to the moment we sat in the piers, she would constantly peek down at the vest, dusting off imaginary specks in utter paranoia.We went through the ceremonies, Veria participating, although she seemed eager to get home, as if to enjoy the beauty of her outfit all alone. How dull.The bells rang, people pouring out of the sacred building, loitering around at the front entrance before they sunk into their cars, drove home, and sat down to watch the usual football. However, as our family walked out, my sister stood straight up, careful not to lean against the brick walls.
Ah, of course. Don’t want to stain that pretty feathered piece of clothing with the dirt of hundreds of years.
A breeze lifted the hem of my dress, and flushing in embarrassment, I pushed it back down beneath my knees. Veria laughed to my right, holding her own skirt, shielding it from the wind. Our dad snapped his fingers, shooting sharp looks to unfortunate boys that happened to look our way, and shoved us towards the car. Stifling more laughter, we climbed into our seats, and I heard Veria heave a sigh of relief.It appeared that she was glad that we were leaving. Odd, the Church had always been one of her more favored places, a meeting place of people she adored. Strange how something so vulnerable could make her forget that.
On the ride home, I noticed that there was a piece of paper stuck to the back of the vest. It was thin and muli-colored; it was probably a pamphlet from the Church that outlined the day’s activities. Without putting much thought into what I was doing (why would I even need to think about something as trivial as plucking a shred of paper off my sister, after all?), I pulled my pointer finger back on my thumb, and flicked it off, watching it tumble through the air, eventually landing on the car carpet our feet were resting on. Immediately she turned around to face me, hand coming to grip the back of her seat.
“What..was that?” she asked, regarding me warily through thin eyelids.
I pointed to the paper laying on the ground, right next to her foot.
“You had that on your shoulder. I just flicked it off for you, no big deal.”
Frowning, eyebrows creasing in thought, Veria finally shook her head, turning around in her seat so she was facing the proper direction.
“You may mean well..but that doesn’t mean something won’t go wrong.” she murmured, picking up the piece of paper and tucking it into the cover of her bible.
The following weeks flew by as normal, with my soccer practices on Saturdays, and our runs every day after school. Veria and I ran, yellow and black ponytails dancing in the wind as we went, slicing through air like butter. Except, only Veria was a butter knife. My edges were sharper. That became clear when you compared our temperaments. In fact, you could compare everything about us, and you’d get opposites. Her favorite color was blue, mine was red. She loved dogs, I preferred cats. The White Vest. The Black Turtleneck. But, opposites attract, they say. And so we continued our sisterly activities together, without hindrance or interruption. This continued for months, until one day, while we were going through her closet, looking for old clothes to donate to a charity across town. Ragged jeans, worn shirts, and muddied sneakers found their way into the donation bag, which was beginning to swell from its load. As I was unhooking a T-shirt, I spied my sister crouched over a box of shoes, or maybe belts. It didn’t exactly matter. Smirking, I flunk the shirt at her, tossing my hands up when it whacked her in the back of the head, hanging there like some sort of mask.
“Score one for Nat-a-li-eee!”
“You dork! You’ll pay for that!” Veria cried, grabbing the shirt by its sleeve and slashing it towards me, a whip of thread. I grabbed an old pair of sweatpants for defense, flailing infront of me as I fended my enemy off. Laughing, she ducked underneath the pants, managing to hit me in the hip with the shirt. I yelped, and smacked her over the head withthe pants I still clutched in my fist, earning a yelp in return.We carried on this ‘clothes war’, becoming ingenious and resourceful. Using shoes for dynamite, scarves for whips, and buttons for bullets. It was immature. Immature and undeniably fun.
“Take that!” Veria cried, knocking the boot I had gripped in my palm to the side, where it landed among a stack of old textbooks. Cackling, she raised her weapon, a leather jacket, high above her head, a glint in her eyes. I stared up in surprise and helplessness as she leered:
“Have any last words?”
I bit my lip, glancing near for something, anything that might save my life in this onslaught. Spotting the perfect weapon, I slipped it down from the shelf it was folded neatly onto, raising it above my own head for protection.
“If you want me, you’ll have to go through this!” I shrieked playfully, shaking the White Vest so that the feathers ruffled and fluttered. My sister paled, dropped the leather jacket, and snatched the vest from me, causing a few feathers to come loose and drop to the floor. She watched them with wide eyes, then grabbed me by the hood of my jacket, anger dripping from her voice, venom from a snake’s fangs.
“Don’t you ever do that again, do you hear? Ever! It’s not yours to use like that!” When the words had been said, she released my hood, which in turn made me plunk back to the ground.
She’d already started folding it again, smoothing out each crease as she went. Stunned, I watched,massaging the back of my neck with my left hand. That hurt…
For a while we didn’t speak after that, but eventually we grew close again; we forgave and forgot. The next few years were nice, but they passed quickly. Days came and went, and soon Veria was leaving for College. I felt numb that day, seeing my counterpart walk out the front door, and drive off into the distance. Before she left, she hung up the vest in the back of the closet, so that whenever someone walked in, it would be the first thing they’d see. I had asked her why she was leaving it her, since she’d always tried so hard to protect it. The reply I got had been a shrug, a grin, then: “Once you’ve accomplished something, you can proudly show it to the world. And to me, my home is my world.”She’d then stepped to the door, waving sheepishly back at me and our parents, and I’d watch that twinkle creep its way into her eyes.
“Hey…make sure no one touches my vest, or my gingerbread cookies.’ she had said with a wink, closing the door behind her. Just 3 months later, and she was gone. Erased from the earth, not an eraser scrap left of her. All her sharpies were dry when I tried to use them.
I started to tremble. If I held my arm out in front of my face, I could see the hairs standing up, and muscles twitching. Still, I reached out for the vest, longing to touch the feathers I’d felt only once before. I longed for a small part of my sister, and this vest was such a large part. My promise had been made, but it had been made to be broken. You would always eat the last cookie before it staled. My fingertips brushed against the feathers of a goose, a white goose.They felt smooth, like pearls. I peeled the vest away from its perch, barely feeling its light weight as it rested in my hands. I looked down, caressing the front, thinking: This is beautiful. Then, it started to fall apart. The feathers flaked from the material, coating the toes of my shoes, sticking to my black turtleneck. The silver seam x’s began to unravel, silver thread tears dripping down across the floor.
“No.” I whispered. “No!”
But the vest continued to erode, dipping in my hold, sagging, until finally it began to melt, slipping through my fingers no matter how hard I tried to hold on. I watched with a pang of extreme regret as the vest fell, piece by piece, string by string. Kneeling among the ruined vest on the floor, I wrapped my arms around my knees, and sobbed. I suppose I was too tainted for The White Vest.


© Copyright 2019 Emmyrald. All rights reserved.

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