Monday, July 1, 2013 | By: Drotuno

Pieces of You Chapter 5 & Pics

Chapter 5 – Missing
Bella
Cedar Key, FL – November
“Bella-boo!” my mother squealed over the phone. “You gotta come to Phoenix. It’s such a fun place!”
Giggling, I settled myself next to Bob on my deck. “With a time difference,” I teased her.
“Oh shit! Did I interrupt something...someone?”
“No.” I snorted, shaking my head at her. Her happy rambling was comforting, and I’d missed it. “I was just finishing up some pictures. And I’m teasing you. It’s only eight here.”
She was quiet for a moment, but then asked, “Baby...why are you there? I’d have thought you’d have gone home by now. Don’t get me wrong. You can stay as long as you like. The place is yours if you want it, but... Bella, I thought you liked it in Chicago. You were at the paper...a big paper. You had that adorable house. What happened?”

I grimaced, glancing over at Bob, who seemed to waiting for an answer from me, too. As much as I loved my mother, I didn’t want to tell her about Edward. I didn’t want to seem...less in her eyes for having been with a married man and fallen for his lies. I couldn’t even explain how I still dreamed about him just about every night, most leaving me craving the sound of his voice and aching for his touch.
Bob spun his back to the ocean to face me completely, and I raised an eyebrow at him, essentially asking him, “Really, Bob?” I couldn’t help but roll my eyes when he stretched his wings, making it look like a shrug.
Narrowing my eyes at him, I said, “It was time for a change, Mom.”
Bob’s beak clapped together. He ruffled his feathers and then hopped down to the deck floor to make his way down my steps back onto the beach. I was now convinced Bob could speak English and that he understood lies...and didn’t like them. I really needed to hang out with more humans.
“Bella...” My mother started, but then stopped. “Fair enough, sweetie.”
I sagged in relief. I was still feeling prickly and uneasy having explained everything to Alice. Even more unsettling was that things had now changed between Peter and me. What was once easy and calm was now jittery and nervous. We’d somehow gone from being two grown adults to being back in junior high.
“Well, what are you doing for Thanksgiving? It’s only three weeks away,” she quickly changed the subject.
“Working, actually,” I said rather proudly. “I’ve been hired to help a girl in town with a history of Cedar Key. She’s taken over what her father started, but then wants to add newer photos to a book she’s putting together. In fact, I’m supposed to meet with her in a few days to go over what places she wants.”
“Good for you, baby!” she praised. “You’re busier there than you ever were in Chicago.”
I laughed. “I wouldn’t say that.”
“Well, darn. I was hoping you’d come visit, but...” She trailed off, only to add, “At least keep in touch, Bella-boo. I miss you, but I’m glad Florida is working out for you.”
“Thanks, Mom. I’ll call you next week.”
We ended the call, and I set my cell down onto the deck table as I gazed out over the night sky. It was so quiet in Cedar Key at night, the only sound being that of the waves hitting the shore. It was soothing, and fall had settled in, making it comfortable. It wasn’t cold, but the humidity had lessened, leaving the air crisp and clean. I wondered if it was snowing in Chicago already, but not enough to open my laptop to find out.
Suddenly, I felt homesick for that city. I missed the noise, the chaos, the food, the people. I missed Angela and Charlotte, even Mr. Newton. For a split second, I missed my little house, and I hoped that whoever was in it was taking good care of it. My mind then landed on Edward. I missed him, too. But mixed in with the good memories of laughter and warm, strong arms and how I’d felt when his eyes would rake over me, the sound of lies and deceit overrode it all. I sighed, my head falling back to the chair behind me. Maybe Alice had been right when she’d said that I’d needed the lies. Maybe I’d wanted to hear them, to think that I was loved that much.
The sound of a throat clearing almost made me jump, but I looked down my steps to see Peter standing there.
“I didn’t mean to scare you,” he said softly, stepping up onto my deck.
“No, it’s okay.” I sat up, taking what he handed me.
“You left it. I didn’t find it until I was closing the bar. Alice said you’d be upset if you thought you lost it,” he explained.
I eyed the Dartmouth sweatshirt, wrapping my arms around it. “Yeah...probably,” I admitted softly, trying not to wish it still smelled like it had the day it had been left at my house in Chicago – like a man’s cologne, detergent, and a smell that was altogether just Edward.
“You still love him,” he stated out of the blue, but pointed to the shirt in my arms. He winced when my gaze was quick and sharp on him. “Never mind. I’m sorry. Forget I said anything.”
Before he could leave, I said, “It doesn’t matter.” When Peter faced me again, I shrugged, feeling terrible that I was so fucking broken that I couldn’t speak of Edward, but then again, what we’d had wasn’t real...for Edward, anyway. “It doesn’t matter if I do. I can’t be with him.”
“Did he die?”
Smiling sadly, I shook my head. “No. He’s very much alive.” I snorted, rolling my eyes.
“In some ways, it would be easier if he’d died. You could...hero worship him, turn him into something mythical. You could grieve, let it go, but...I can see that you can’t.”
“That’s probably very true,” I muttered, gazing down at the Dartmouth logo.
Peter sat down in the chair in front of me, resting his elbows on his knees. His wavy, dark blond hair fell across his forehead. He nodded once, but finally spoke to the deck floor.
“I still miss her,” he stated, glancing up at me. “Heidi, I mean. We were...really fucking good together.” He shrugged a shoulder. “Hell, I don’t think we ever fought.”
“Mythical?” I asked, smirking a little.
He chuckled. “Mythical. Yeah. Of course we fought. What couple doesn’t?”
I snickered softly, but stayed quiet.
“It’s always over stupid shit, too. Money and bills, not picking up milk on the way home, or working too late. It’s never anything big. And for a long time, I blamed myself for her...and the baby. It was me that pushed for a family.”
“I’m pretty sure that’s not your fault, Peter,” I sighed, toying with the string of the hood.
“It’s not.” He sat back in the chair. “I know. But it felt that way for a long time. It’s been five years. I’ve also found out that it’s okay to miss her...and keep going on with my life.”
I flinched at that, but I nodded, meeting his gaze.
“We’re...damaged people, Bella,” he went on, grimacing a little. “I’m never again going to have what I had with Heidi. And it’s obvious that you’re still...” He gestured to the sweatshirt in my arms. “But I think we could be friends.”
“I thought we were,” I said, smirking when he looked up at me.
“We were...are. I just...” He reached over and picked up my hand. “I’m not asking for heavy, Bella. Just...let me take you out. As friends. No pressure. Just a movie on the mainland or something.”
His sweet face was pleading silently, and I took a deep breath and let it out. My face must’ve screamed doubt, because he rambled on adorably.
“I tell you what. We won’t even do it at night. A matinee. I’ll buy you lunch.”
For some reason, that made me start to giggle and I couldn’t stop. But deep down in the pit of my stomach, I knew for a fact I couldn’t make Peter any promises. I wanted to move on, get to know him, even open up a little, but it still felt...wrong. It felt like cheating, and the second that word hit my brain, I gave in. This wouldn’t be cheating.
His crooked smile was so much like his brother’s that I giggled again. Jasper and Peter had sweet, funny senses of humor. It was what made me feel welcomed around them.
Sighing deeply, I finally nodded. “Friends only, Peter. I’m still—”
“Grieving,” he finished for me softly.
“Yeah,” I conceded with a nod.
“I’m off day after tomorrow. I’ll pick you up around ten. We’ll drive to Gainesville.”
Smiling, I agreed. “Okay.”
The “date” couldn’t have gone any better...or worse. The movie was silly and light, the lunch was delicious, but despite the fact that we’d laughed, gotten along, and enjoyed each other’s company, there was nothing there for me. With Edward, there was always this crackling energy around us, pushing us, pulling us together, whether we were arguing or making love. It was there all the time. I’d learned to live with it, but I could see that it meant something, because being with Peter there was...nothing – no spark, no push, no pull. Just friendship.
So when he dropped me back off later that evening, I was happy that I’d at least tried. I was proud of myself for being able to tell him about me, leaving the details of my love life out of it.
We were laughing about parts of the movie when we paused in front of my door. It was then things became awkward. Peter paused, his sweet smile slipping off his face.
When he leaned in, I turned my head. “Peter...no.” My voice sounded pleading and weak, but he stepped back as if I’d yelled the words.
He frowned, shoving his hands into his front pockets. “You’re a beautiful woman, Bella. I can’t apologize for being attracted to you.”
“Thank you, but this”—I gestured between us—“can’t happen. I had a great time today, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready for that. It wouldn’t be fair to you. I’m being as honest as I can be, Peter. I’m sorry.”
He bit down on his bottom lip, but nodded. “No, you’ve been completely honest. Except about what happened to you. And that’s okay. I mean no disrespect. I’ll go.”
When Monday rolled around, my phone rang on my way from meeting with Jessica Stanley. I had the list of buildings, streets, and parts of the beach that she wanted me to capture for her book. She wanted specific things, like Cedar Key decorated for Christmas, which was happening daily as Thanksgiving approached, the fishermen working on the docks, and the main street, where wooden buildings that looked like fisherman’s wharfs lined each side of the street. Included in that was Kona Joe’s, which I’d avoided since my date with Peter.
“Hello?” I answered.
“Isabella, it’s Shirley Cope,” she replied. “I was just letting you know that the postcards are back from the print shop if you want to come in and grab a few to keep.”
“I can’t today. I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“Absolutely,” she chirped. “Oh! And there was someone in here asking about your work. Bet you’re gonna be even busier soon.”
Laughing, I shrugged. “Busy is good. Who was it?”
“Dunno. But I told them they’d most likely find you at Joe’s.”
“Got it. Heading there now, actually.”
I stepped off the sidewalk to cross the street. I rarely used my car in Cedar Key. Everything I needed was within walking distance, and everyone I knew so far were practically neighbors. It gave me a feeling of a Norman Rockwell era, but it saved me from having to buy gas every other day like I had in Chicago.
I stepped into Kona Joe’s, feeling a little nervous about seeing Peter, but luckily, the place was busy for lunch. The bar had mainly hard-working fishermen lined around it, looking tired and worn out from early starts to their day. The booths that lined the windows facing the beach were full of couples, vacationers, and local families. Jasper was the first to see me, and he rushed to me to hug me.
“If you’d like, I’ll kick my brother’s ass for you,” he whispered in my ear with a sweet chuckle. “It’ll be the second ass-whippin’ he’s had. Alice was the first.”
I snorted, shaking my head. “Nah,” I sighed, gazing up at him. “The fault rests on me.”
Jasper smiled sweetly, but nodded. “If you say so...”
I waved it off. “I do need your permission to take pictures of this place for Jess’s book.”
“Sure thing, but...” He glanced over his shoulder. “Bells...there’s someone that’s been askin’ for you.”
“Who?” I asked, following his gaze, but I wasn’t the only one looking. Every man in the building was tossing glances toward the back corner booth. When I stepped around the bar to get a better look, my heart constricted and I swayed on my feet.
“Jesus, Bella,” Jasper whispered, holding me steady. “If there’s a problem, I’ll tell them to go...”
I was shaking my head no because it was too late anyway. Rosalie Cullen was already unfolding her long legs from the booth to head my way. I’d forgotten how intimidatingly beautiful she was, how she carried herself without a care in the world, and she stood out in the room like a neon sign. She made everything around her just a tad duller.
“Bella,” she greeted.
“Rose,” I barely made a sound back. “What are you doing here?”
She smirked, giving a sweeping glance around the restaurant, and every eye that had been on her suddenly found their plates much more interesting. “We need to talk. Is there somewhere...”
“Huh...oh, yeah,” I told her with a nod. I turned to Jasper. “Thanks.”
“Mmhm,” he hummed, eyeing the stunning stranger before opening the door for us. “Later, Bells.”
Rose and I were eerily quiet as I led her back to my place. It wasn’t until we were at the door that she said something.
“Look, I know you wanted to stay hidden...”
I rounded on her. “Not hidden, but I honestly didn’t think I’d be missed, if you know what I mean,” I snapped back, and she grimaced, nodding slowly.
“Well, that’s where you’re wrong. Though, it’s kind of good you’ve been gone.” She snorted, rolling her eyes. “I’ll explain a few things, if you’ll let me.”
I opened the door to my place, and she stepped in. Seeing her there didn’t seem to fit, and it sort of pissed me off.
“I don’t think there’s much that needs explaining, Rose,” I said, dropping my things onto the floor by my sofa. “I mean—”
“No, wait... Please. I know why you left, Bella. But what you saw, what Edward said to you, those are two completely different...truths,” she said cryptically.
“Why do you care? I’m not...one of you. I’m the whore he cheated with,” I sneered, my hands balling up into fists. “You’ve met me one time.”
“Yet, you still keep his shit,” she stated calmly, pointing to the Dartmouth sweatshirt that I couldn’t seem to get rid of or put away.
I bit my tongue, but I waited.
She laughed, sitting down onto the edge of my sofa. “Edward asked me that same question, you know. ‘Why do you care?’” She locked eyes with me. “I’m not ‘one of them,’ either, Bella. I never have been, but there was a time when that made a difference to everyone’s parents, and Edward stood up for me. He made it possible for me to continue seeing Emmett. Even more, he absolutely dared them to fucking say something when we wanted to get married.”
My brow furrowed, and I sat in the chair opposite of her. I stayed quiet because Edward had never said a thing about this to me.
“So...I owe him,” she said with a rather sad smile on her face as she reached for her bag. As she rummaged around in it, she changed gears on me. “He said he’s emailed you. Have you read them?”
“No.”
She glanced up at me and nodded. “Yeah, he said you wouldn’t.” She pulled out a folder and a CD case, setting them down onto my coffee table. “That’s for you. All of it.”
“Did he send you?”
“Oh...hell no. Emmett told him I was visiting family early for the holidays. If Edward knew I was here, he’d lose his ever-lovin’ mind. I think there’s a part of him that wanted to do this, but he can’t. He’s not...finished yet, but I watch him...and he’s fading. I see him lose hope every day with what he’s been through since you just...up and vanished,” she said with a sarcastic tone to her voice on the last three words.
“He’s married and he’s having a child, Rosalie.”
“Don’t full-name me,” she snorted, but she grinned at the same time. “I know. And again...you saw two different truths. Please, let me show you.”
I felt like a masochists when I nodded, but I got up and sat next to her. She flipped open the folder she’d brought, and I could see that it was filled with papers and news clippings and pictures. On top was the article that had sent me running from Chicago.
“Jane’s pregnant,” she started harshly. “Edward’s not the father. Here.” She pulled out a piece of paper and handed it to me.
I wasn’t sure what I was looking at until I saw the word “paternity.” Letters like CVS and DNA flashed up from the page.
Rose stayed silent until the truth hit me. “Right. Edward wasn’t the only unfaithful one in that relationship. Funny thing, that Jane. She needed Edward to make her who she was, needed his talent for promoting art, and needed his support. Her dad may be the governor, but they’re a few steps down in the financial ladder than the Cullens. However, her father was the one who gave them the start-up money for Sterling Gallery, but wrapped it all up in a big bow for their wedding gift. They tied it all together in a legal and binding contract. Really, it was a place for his daughter’s half-decent paintings to be shown somewhere.”
I winced, but handed her back the paper.
“Jane, however, knew she was fucked – both literally and figuratively,” Rose continued. “She may have not been the only cheater in their house, but she knew that Edward had changed. He changed so much when he met you that she started tracking his every move on her phone. He suddenly went from not having to worry about where he went, who he was with, or what he was doing, to answering to her every whim. When she felt he was slipping away, or when he suggested that they split for a break, she’d freak the hell out on him, reel him back in. Without Edward, her art was simply...paint on a canvass. She knew about you, Bella, and she knew when you were together, and she’d exploit him. This,” she tacked on, holding up the baby announcement, “was her last clawing effort at trying to keep him. For some reason, she thought he’d care what the society people thought. He didn’t. He only cared what you thought.”
Shaking my head in denial, I felt tears well up. “No, but he promised me all sorts of things and he never went through.”
“Believe me, he tried.” She flipped through more pages, only to bring out copies of what looked like a contract, but closer inspection made me see what it really was – copies of divorce papers signed by Edward. “He filed for divorce. Unfortunately, he’s still wrapped up in it, but I don’t think it’ll be much longer. Emmett’s aiming for Christmas...the first of the year at the latest.”
“He filed after I left,” I noted bitterly.
“He had no choice, Bella. He was waiting for this.” She pulled out a full-color article about Edward’s new art center. “He needed to do this first before Jane took it all away. If you knew Edward at all, then you know those kids come first.”
A sob escaped me at the pictures from the article. Edward was in the background, holding Sarah’s hand, as the actor, Garrett Fields, who was friends with Edward, cut the ribbon. Edward looked proud, but he looked thinner and like he hadn’t slept in months. Dark circles shadowed the skin beneath his eyes – eyes that looked haunted.
Handing it back to her, I met her gaze.
“He never lied. He just had so many fucking things working against him,” she stated softly. “And I thought you ought to know, because Jane is mean. She’s been mean since we were in school.” She snorted, rolling her eyes. “But again, it’s probably a good thing that you left. I told you that it would get ugly...and it did. I told you to take an extended vacation.”
“How bad?”
“Bad.” She grimaced. “I live with his lawyer, so I heard way more than I should have, but the whole thing got nasty.”
“Yet...you’re here...and he’s not,” I pointed out.
“No, he’s not. And he probably won’t be until it’s all said and done. He’ll probably show up with every bit of proof that he wasn’t lying to you. But he won’t tell you what he gave up for you.”
“For me?”
“Yeah,” she said, reaching for the CD case. “Play this,” she ordered, gesturing toward the TV. “I thought you should see exactly how this played out...publicly.”
Getting up, I put the DVD into the player, but snatched up the remote. Immediately, my flatscreen was filled with local Chicago news coverage.
When the young art moguls announced in the Chicago Tribune that they were expecting their first child, the community thought it was a good thing. Now we find out that Edward Cullen has filed for divorce, stating infidelity and irreconcilable differences. The question remains: Who gets Sterling Gallery?”
The next several clips showed the courthouse steps or the front of Edward’s house, the media crowding around not only Edward, but Emmett and eventually their father, Carlisle. There were interviews with lawyers, Marcus Sterling, and Jane.
Due to what seems to be a fight for Sterling Gallery, Edward Cullen takes the steps to his father’s law offices. Mr. Cullen! Mr. Cullen! Is it true? There was infidelity? If so, which of you cheated?”
Edward waved them off, but his father stepped into the camera’s view, saying, “My son has worked hard to make Sterling Gallery what it is today. We’re not about to let that go.”
Rose hit the button, forwarding to the next clip. Cameras caught sight of Edward and Emmett as they emerged out of the highrise where their father’s office was located on the top few floors. The view was shaky as they ran to them.
Mr. Cullen, is it true you just gave up the fight for Sterling Gallery?”
My brow furrowed because Edward looked...defeated and tired and so very lost. But he seemed lighter, freer, too. He looked to the camera and uttered a soft, “Yes,” before whispering something to his brother.
Rose hit pause, freezing Edward in a perfect frame, and I turned to look at her. “Why?” I asked. “Why would he just...give up? He loves his gallery. What? She’s going to run it? She’s an idiot.”
Rose cracked up. “She is that. And you’re right, he loved that gallery. But he loves you more.”
“I don’t...” I huffed frustratedly, shaking my head. “I don’t understand.”
She pointed to Edward’s handsome, yet sad face frozen on the screen. “The day of that interview, they’d been upstairs in a conference. All of Jane’s lawyers and her father were there. Edward, Emmett, and Carlisle were on the other side of the table. They weren’t getting anywhere in negotiations, so finally, they decided they’d take it to court. See, in order to negate the pre-nup that those two signed, they had to prove which one cheated first. We all fucking know it was Jane, but she wasn’t spilling. So, they were going to subpoena you. Edward said no fucking way, called an end to all of it, told Jane she could have the gallery and the house, and he walked out.”
“No, why?!” I cried, looking to the screen.
“Emmett said he’d never seen his brother so fucking mad. He was nose to nose with their dad, saying that he’d put you through too much already, that he wasn’t dragging you into that hell. It wasn’t going to happen. In fact, he thought Edward was going to hit Marcus.”
“Fuck,” I sobbed, burying my face in my hands. “I thought... It seemed... I left him alone in this!”
“No, no,” she soothed, tilting my head. “Oh, Bella. Be grateful you weren’t there. Your life would’ve been a fucking nightmare. In fact, more than once, Edward said he was glad you were safe and out of it all. It was what he’d dreaded from the get-go. See, had he done this while you were still there, he would’ve lost his mind trying to protect you from it. He misses you completely, but he understands what you saw, and he’s better knowing you’re safe out of the limelight. Without you there, they couldn’t shine a spotlight on you.”
“Everything he told me—”
“Was the truth,” she finished for me.
“He must hate me for not believing him.”
“No. He’s well aware of what it looked like,” she said with a sad smile. “No, Bella. If anything, he loves you more. You’ve given him something to fight for. He feels the need to prove himself to you, even if you send him packing. And that is one stubborn man.
My sobs erupted like a freight train, and she wrapped an arm around me. The guilt that I felt was taking my breath away, but the relief that came with hearing and seeing everything was practically making me boneless. I hadn’t realized just how much I’d been holding in.
“What do I do? Should I—”
“Nothing,” she urged, pulling me away from her shoulder so that she could look me in the eye. “You can’t do anything, Bella. He’s still technically married, still under scrutiny. It’s in its final stages of negotiations – you know, the he wants, she wants bullshit – but if you pop up out of the blue, all the name calling and fighting will start all over. Right now, he’s the better cheater, because they’ve made it look like it was temporary. She, on the other hand, is walking around getting bigger every day with proof that she slept with another man.” She cupped my face. “He wants so badly to prove he wasn’t lying to you, but I couldn’t let him just fly down here without helping him out a little. I really do owe him.” She grinned when I sniffled a small laugh. “He’ll come to you, I’m absolutely certain of that, but not until it’s all over. Then...he’ll take a ‘vacation’ to get away from it all, but I know he’ll bring just about the same shit I did. If not more.”
I sagged in defeat, but nodded, swiping at my tears. “How long?”
“Like I said, Emmett’s hoping by Christmas or the first of the year.” She frowned a little, looking uncharacteristically nervous. “I also didn’t know...or didn’t want Edward to find out... Well, if you’d moved on. It would break him.”
I was shaking my head no the whole time she was saying it. “No, I can’t. I still love Edward, even when I didn’t want to, and there’s a guy here...Peter, but...” I swallowed thickly, shaking my head no again. “I’ve been as honest as I can with him without hurting him. He wants more than I can give him, but he’s not exactly talking to me.”
Rose’s nose wrinkled, but she nodded. “I’m sorry. It may have been cruel to come and dump all this on you and then deny you the right to talk to him, but I feel protective of Edward. Like I said, he was there for me when I really needed someone in my corner, you know? And that night of the art show, his love for you was practically written all over his face. It was...”
“Breathtaking. Yeah, I know. I have a picture from that night. I could barely look at it.”
She laughed lightly. “Exactly.” She stood up, pulling me with her, and hugged me. “Look, have patience, but he’ll show up. But he’s determined to do it as a free man...a single man.” She smiled when we broke the hug. “What you do when he gets here...about all this,” she said with a wave around my place. “Well, that’s between you two.”
My phone buzzed in my pocket, and I pulled it out to see that it was Alice. I ignored it, but looked to Rose. When the call went to voicemail, she took it from me quickly, calling her own phone.
“There. If you just want to know he’s okay, text me. I’ll send you pictures of him kicking Emmett’s ass in basketball. We both do that a lot.” She shot me a wink when I laughed and then handed me back my phone. “I have to get going. I’m flying out of Gainesville in the morning.”
I nodded, walking her toward my door. “Thanks, Rose.”
“Don’t thank me. I simply thought it was unfair that Jane had made him out to be this liar, when he wasn’t. It’s no secret that I don’t care for her. We’ve never been friends.” She pointed to me. “Even if what you were doing wasn’t right, you were adults...but you...you, I like. You didn’t put up with Edward’s bullshit, and I can respect that.”
With that said, she walked out my door and down my steps toward the sidewalk. When I saw her get into a silver sedan parked on the street, I finally closed my door.
My phone vibrated in my hand, and again, it was Alice.
“Yeah, Alice?” I answered, my voice sounding a little shaky.
“Are you okay? Jazz said someone came looking for you...”
“No, no... I’m fine,” I said, but my laptop caught my gaze, and suddenly, I needed to know what months of Edward’s emails had said. “Um...Alice? You remember when you said you’d hold my hand?”
“Yeah?”
“Can you come over?”
“You okay?” she asked.
“Yeah, I’m...I’ve really got something to show you, and I could really use that hand to hold, Alice,” I said, eyeing the file that Rose had left behind.
She was quiet for a second, but finally said, “Okay, be there in a few.”


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