TG Universes & Series:
Are You a Good Witch...
Author's Note:Here's Ch.3, right on schedule so far. I'm doing really good :). I'd like to thank djkauf for the excellent editing.~Enemyoffun.
They were coming, there were so many of them that I couldn’t see any light. At first, I had no idea what they were because all I could see was shadows. All I could do was run and hope that they wouldn’t follow. No matter how fast I ran though, they seemed to be gaining on me. There were so many, too, and they were screaming. I’m not sure what they were saying but whatever it was they were angry. It was clear they were trying to get me but I just didn’t know why. Why was this happening? What did I do to upset and anger them so? Who were they in the first place to hate me? None of it made any sense. Everything had been fine only a moment ago, then they came. They poured out of nowhere and I had to run to get away from them.
They were so close now. There were hundreds of them.
I could make out shapes now. They were clearly people and they were holding fire. No not fire, torches. They were holding torches. They weren’t yelling either, they were chanting. I tried to run again but they were all around me now, circling in on me. As they got closer, I saw faces. They were my neighbors and my friends. Some were kids at school, others were people from town. There were people from Ravencrest too. All of them looked angry and they were chanting. I could now make out their words as clear as day: “Burn the Witch!” It didn’t make any sense though. How did these people know about me? Then I saw Tommy. Of course, it had been Tommy. The little bastard had betrayed me. He was sneering at me, calling for my head.
Seeing him with them made me angry. I could feel the anger building inside of me. So much rage poured out of me. I blasted out on all sides, spewing my wicked black flame, scorching all of them to ashes. I screamed as loud as I could as I let them all have it. They were monsters, not me. They were the enemy, not me. They were the insects to be squashed like so many little bugs. They should all die and I wanted to kill them. I reveled at hearing them scream and watching them contort in agony as they burned. They were going to burn me so why shouldn’t I burn them.
The only thing that stopped my carnage was the smoke.
It was strange really because with all the fire, I couldn’t see any smoke but I sure could smell it.
Then there was the beeping.
I looked around.
Where the hell was that coming from?
“Ignore it,” said a sinister voice. “Ignore it and burn them.”
My anger had subsided though. I didn’t want to burn anymore.
The smoke smell was stronger and the beeping was louder.
It sounded a lot like a fire alarm.
A fire alarm…
I snapped awake. It was a dream, a horrible fucked up dream. I was a bit groggy but that was quickly destroyed by the smoke. I snapped up and looked around. Sure enough, my room was on fire. Ok not my whole room, just my blanket and maybe my dresser. I cursed, throwing the blanket off of me. In my panic, I rolled and fell on the floor. The beeping from the smoke alarm was loud and annoying. I jumped to my feet quickly, panicking. I screamed for help, calling out for Mom. When she didn’t come I rushed out into the hall and heading for the linen closet. We kept one of those little fire extinguishers there. Grabbing it, I ran back into my room and went to work. I blasted the dresser first then the blanket. It was a good thing I woke up when I did. After throwing off my blanket, the fire had started to spread. If I had been asleep still who knows what might have happened.
I emptied the extinguisher just to be on the safe side.
When it was all done, I had quite the mess on my hands. I surveyed the damage, cursing as I did so. The rug was scorched where the blanket fell on it, my blanket was burnt to a crisp and my dresser had definitely seen better days. Then there was all the white foam crap all over the place. Mom and Dad were going to kill me. It took me a second to realize why they didn’t come running in as soon as the fire alarm went off then I remembered they weren’t home. They left late last night, probably when I was still sleeping. They were going to be gone for two weeks and a colleague of theirs was going to stay with me.
I wonder what he or she was going to say when they saw this mess.
I cursed then coughed. My room was still filled with smoke but thankfully the alarm had finally gone off.
I stepped around the mess and opened my window.
While the room aired out, I decided to get ready for school. I still had about an hour so I made my way to the bathroom. I stopped at the sink first to splash some water into my face. As I did so, I couldn’t help but notice my hands. Thankfully, they weren’t burned like last time but fingertips were black. I did my best to wash that off, thankful that all it took was a little soap and water. After that incident at the Pit in Ravencrest, I thought for sure my arms were going to stay permanently scarred. Thankfully, though, grandma was able to use a bit of healing magic to get rid of it. She said I was lucky though. The amount of magic I used usually left a more permanent mark. Looking at my hands now, I couldn’t help but wonder how much of my life I might have burned away then and now.
I scrutinized my face in the mirror, trying to spot anything different. I was looking specifically for wrinkles or gray hairs. I know it was crazy but you never know. Burning through your magic was a very serious problem. There were witches my age who got seduced by power and used it all up. One morning they were happy, healthy teenagers and the next they were old ladies in retirement homes, their entire lives burned away in an instant. Melissa had told me quite a few horror stories like that. She said it happened to a young witch at the college she attended. The girl thought she could handle it and she lost control. Now she was feeble, ninety years old and on a respirator. It was a truly scary thing.
Thankfully I got away unscathed.
I sighed in relief then stripped to get into the shower. As the water flowed over me, I couldn’t help but think about the dream. It was generated out of fear more than anything. I knew exactly what caused it too; it was that stupid girl from yesterday. It was her and what she said. How she implied I might be like her then giving me that card. It scared the hell out of me. After getting home from my run, the first thing I did was bring the card to Mom. I told her what happened. She was not at all happy about it either. She made several phone calls last night. She seriously thought about cancelling their trip altogether. Jess and Dad were pretty pissed too. The two of them wanted to take up arms and go after the girl. Unfortunately, there were rules and apparently taking up arms to hunt down a Burner was not sanctioned. How messed up is that?
In the end, all Mom could do was put warding spells around the house and report the incident in full to the Coven when they arrived. She gave me a warding talisman too and told me to stay clear of the girl. She didn’t have to tell me that twice. “Scary Sherry” creeped me the hell out. I was done dealing with her kind, too. I promised myself to live a normal life and that meant staying away from all this magic crap.
I just couldn’t help but wonder if she was going to stay away from me. I got out of the shower, making sure to dry off as quickly as possible. I still wasn’t quite used to seeing my naked body. It was a little jarring to try drying off a body that was still as foreign now as it was when I first got it. A small part of me still hated my cousin for it but the rest of me---the large part---had forgiven her and moved on. I was done being that woe-is-me girl too. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life pining over what was lost. I was a guy. now I’m a girl and now I had to live with it. Unfortunately living with it was so much easier when I wasn’t thinking about the future. Now that future was here. As far as I could see it wasn’t going to get any better than this either.
I couldn’t help but sigh at that thought.
As I was wrapping the towel around myself, I heard the phone ring. Cursing, I quickly ran out of the bathroom and down the hall to my parent’s bedroom. I got to the bedside phone on the third ring.
“Kelly, dear is everything all right?”
It was Mrs. Braddock from across the street.
She must have seen the smoke.
“I’m fine, the curling iron just got too close to something.”
Ok so I didn’t have a curling iron and I definitely didn’t need one but it sounded like the smart thing to say.
“Oh thank goodness, when I saw all the smoke I thought something horrible happened.”
I smiled. “Just stupid human error.”
We chatted for a few more minutes. She asked me about my trip back east and other things. I was glad she didn’t mention anything about my life before any of that because I wasn’t sure what to say to her. I was supposed to be a massive tomboy now, just hadn’t come out of my shell. It was the stupidest thing I’d ever heard of but I guess it was better than being my own twin sister or some long lost cousin. Hell, everyone here already thought I was a girl to begin with. Mrs. Braddock didn’t scare me; it was the guys at school that frightened me. I knew how memory spells worked. They were usually very fool proof, with very powerful ones being able to influence full towns if there were enough practitioners casting it. But there were always a few that slipped through the cracks. It was those few that I was afraid of. I was waiting for that one guy to say, “hey you were in gym class with me, I saw you changing in the locker room” and then everything would be a bust.
Memory spells started to shatter when those things happened. It was the reason why they were so risky to use. They were fine if no one broke them but as soon as one person broke them, they fell apart for everyone. I was just surprised that the Coven even authorized the use of one, especially one as wide spread as the one that they used.
After getting off the phone, I continued drying off. I was kind of glad my hair wasn’t long anymore because now it was so much easier to dry in the morning. As soon as I was done with that, I got dressed. I thought about really girling it up today with one of my new denim skirts but I just wasn’t in the mood. I stuck with the usual jeans and tee. After dressing, I went downstairs for some breakfast. I found some pop-tarts and a note of all things. It was from Mom. She must have written it before she left last night. It was the basic Mom talk “behave don’t do anything stupid” blah blah blah. There was a quick line from Jess on the bottom though, telling me she’d be back next weekend.
I ate my pop-tarts as I walked into the living room to get my backpack. Thankfully, I did my homework Friday when I got home. It was strange how things had changed. Before I would have been scrambling to get it done before catching the bus in the morning. Now I was done and ready to go with several minutes to spare. It was amazing what a simple gender change could do to the way a person goes about their school life. Before I was lazy about those kinds of things and now I was Little Miss Perfect Student.
The bus beeped at the end of the street. I grabbed my last pop-tart and was out the door in plenty of time to catch it.
Teenagers are messed in the head. One minute they hate something, the next they’re indifferent about it, then they forget it completely.
It’s exactly what happened with me.
Ok, so not exactly but pretty damn close. Apparently, word about my weekend encounters had spread like wild fire. First, there was the incident in Carson’s on Saturday which had earned me some points for sticking up to Becky but it was Sunday that had really shined through. At least sixty percent of the popular crowd had been in The Square when I can running in wearing “the outfit” as everyone was dubbing it now. Apparently it was enough to convince most of my nay-sayers that I was in fact what I said I was: 100% girl. The rumors had spread pretty quick too. They hit me as soon as I arrived and followed me throughout the day strangely. People I didn’t even know stopped me in the hall and told me how they never believed I was a guy in the first place. I’m not sure how I felt about that but at least people weren’t ostracizing me anymore.
I couldn’t help but smile though. No one saw me as a freak anymore. I was normal now and that meant I could finally slip into the background like I planned to do all along.
Around lunchtime though, things took another turn.
I was just getting in line, grabbing my tray when I saw them. Tommy and Becky. Sure, I’d seen both of them every day but not like that. Not together. She was practically hanging off his arm as the two of them walked into the cafeteria together. She was giggling and laughing, Tommy was smiling like a fool. I felt like a fool too. Here I was thinking my life was back to normal and I’d been stabbed in the back again. Sure Tommy was free to be with whoever he wanted but why did he have to pick her of all people. I felt my blood boil as I watched the two of them head to a table full of jocks. I wasn’t the only one looking either. Sure Tommy was semi-popular but dating Becky Raulings was something that was not taken lightly.
“You have got to be kidding,” said a voice from behind me, taking the thoughts right out of my head.
I turned and found Tamara Young.
She saw me in front of her, gently putting a hand on my shoulder. I think she misinterpreted my staring for something else because she quickly said. “I’m sure it’s nothing, girl. Becky is a skank; she goes from guy to guy like blowing her nose.”
I nodded, not sure what the heck Tamara was getting at. Then it clicked and I was shocked. She thought that I…that…that was ridiculous.
“I’m not into Tommy,” I said quickly. “We’re just friends or at least I thought we were.”
“Some friend” she said as we moved along in the line.
I barely paid attention as I grabbed some food.
“Hey” said Tamara, pointing in the direction of the tables. “You want to sit with me and the girls.”
I knew exactly where she was pointing. The Girls turned out to be an assortment of primped and pampered girls from one of the higher social clichés in school. Two thirds of them were on the cheer squad, the rest were popular either because of their looks or by association alone. Sitting there with them would have been instant school celebrity status for me. It was tempting, so very tempting. But I had another table I planned to frequent today. Penny was at the other end of the cafeteria, sitting alone, reading her book. That was the table where I belonged, with my new friend and not with some girls who were only going to pretend to be ones.
“Thanks” I said with a smile “but I’ve got another table I’m going to sit at.”
Tamara smiled too. “Well, if you change your mind.”
I nodded and thanked her again.
I paid for my lunch then made my way through the tables, watching as a few eyes followed my progress. They lost interest in me when I dropped into a seat across from Penny. I turned my head to take a look at Tommy one more time. He was sitting at a table with some guys from his team, Becky in a chair next to him. She looked a little uncomfortable but she hid it well.
“That must sting,” said Penny, not looking up from her book.
“What must?” I asked, still looking at Tommy.
“Your Ex with that bitch.”
I turned toward her, ready to set the record straight for the second time in so many minutes.
“Tommy and I were never together. We were just friends.”
“Rumors say otherwise.”
Penny sighed, setting down her book. She shrugged. “They were talking about it in a couple of my morning classes. People seem to think Tommy was yours and that that fight in Carson’s between you and the bitch had something to do with that.”
“You’re serious?” I asked, laughing.
She nodded, I laughed some more. How in the hell did these stupid rumors get started?”
“We were never together” I clarified again. “Just childhood friends. I told him something important the other day and he reacted badly. We had a bit of a falling out. That’s all the drama that’s happened between the two of us.”
“Not my business” said Penny, picking up her book to continue reading.
Shit not a way to start a new friendship.
I decided to change tactics.
“So you’re new here right?”
Penny raised an eyebrow and set down her book. “Yes”
“Where you from?”
“Why’d you move here then?”
“My Dad died.”
Shit. Way to go Kelly.
“I’m sorry,” I said sympathetically.
Penny seemed so cold and indifferent about it but I could see it was affecting her. I could feel it was, too. I’m not sure what to call it but ever since the incident at The Pit, I got this sense around people. It wasn’t like I could read their emotions but I could definitely feel something was off about them. Like Penny for instance. Sure, she was shy but she was holding back too. When she mentioned her father, I could tell she was in pain but there was something else there as well. Was it guilt?
“You want to talk about it?”
Wow, I was really good at this whole making friends thing.
How was it that things were going so cool yesterday and now total suckage?
I was trying to figure out how to approach things again when two more persons appeared at the table. Out of the blue, I was suddenly faced with both Douglas brothers again. Frank dropped into the seat next to me, Mike in the seat next to him. Mike looked a little out of place; Frank on the other hand looked like a man on a mission. I cursed. I’d lowered my guard and now I was going to have to deal with the consequences.
“Hey Kelly” said Frank, flashing me his pearly whites.
Frank wasn’t that bad looking. Tall, dark brown hair, a bit easy on the eyes. He was on the varsity volleyball team too so he was a bit fit. Like I said before, he was a decent guy too. Looking at him though I couldn’t help but think of Jack. Jack was a decent and handsome guy too and that didn’t exactly work out all that well for me.
“Hey Frank,” I said, trying to sound friendly but not too friendly.
“I saw you running yesterday.”
He laughed. Why was he laughing at that?”
“You looked really nice in that outfit.”
Seriously? We used to play D&D together; Frank was one of the guys who knew I was a guy. Yet here he was trying to hit on me. Trying and failing miserably I might add.
“I do a bit of running myself you know,” he said, trying to flex without actually doing it. “You and I should do it sometimes.”
Penny snorted at that. I wanted to crawl into a hole and die.
“Dude Frank seriously” said Mike, looking flabbergasted and something else too. “I mean Kelly is...was…a…I …our friend.”
I narrowed my eyes at Mike. Gee, thanks a lot.
“That was a long time ago and things change.”
He had no idea.
“I’m sorry, Kelly, Mom dropped him on his head…a lot” said Mike defensively.
I took a deep breath. “I don’t really run all that much. It was something a friend told me to do. You know something to do alone to let off some steam. You know, alone.”
Was that enough to get rid of him and help him get a clue?
“Hey I understand. I like to run alone, too.”
Ok no more Mister Nice Girl.
“Look you’re a nice guy Frank but I just got out of a bad break up over vacation and…”
“Hey Frank,” said a familiar voice from behind us.
I turned and saw Tommy standing there. Where the hell did he come from and how long had he been standing there?
“Sinclair” said Frank, tensing up.
“I didn’t know you guys were friends with Kelly again.”
“We’re not,” I said, tensing up a bit myself “they’re not. In fact they’re just leaving.”
Frank made no move to leave the table.
“You’re not leaving,” said Tommy, giving Frank a stern look.
“I’m not done talking.”
“Yes you are,” I said, hoping he’d finally get the clue again.
Frank ignored me. Tommy kind of ignored me, too, but then again he never once even looked in my direction. He just appeared out of nowhere, decided to come to my defense but ignores me afterwards? What the hell was up with that?
“What’s it to you, Sinclair?” said Frank, getting a bit aggressive now. “I’m trying to have a nice conversation with Kelly and you come butting in.”
“Maybe she doesn’t want to talk to you.”
“Maybe that’s none of your business” I found myself saying.
Shit, why was I going after Tommy now?
“It’s not” said Tommy, looking a tad bit hurt.
He should be hurt. We were friends then he betrayed me. He didn’t have the right to defend me anymore. In fact, who the hell was he to stick his nose into my business in the first place? Sure, I wanted Frank gone but I could have handled it myself. I was about to say something to that affect when Becky appeared. I cursed as she did her little skank walk and put her arm gently around Tommy’s waist. He reacted to her touch, taking her hand gently.
“What are you doing over here in loser city, babe?”
“Just helping a friend,” he said, finally looking at me.
“Ah honey, that’s so cute, doing charity work like that” she said, her voice taking on a condescending tone. “But you can’t always help the less unfortunate. There has to be people like them for people like us to exist after all.”
Tommy clenched his jaw but said nothing. Frank on the other hand looked really pissed off.
“Who the fuck do you think you are?” he snapped, pushing himself out of his chair.
His outburst caught the attention of some of the people close by.
Becky laughed. “You’re standing up to me, who are you again?”
God I could have decked her.
“His name is Frank and he’s my friend,” I said, getting to my feet, drawing attention to myself too.
Just what I didn’t want.
“Of course he is” sneered Becky, feeling good about gaining the upper hand again. “You freaks are all friends.”
“He’s not a freak either.” Then added quickly. “None of us are.”
By now, several people were staring at our table. We were drawing way too much attention.
“We’re done here,” said Becky, suddenly looking very bored. “I’m starting to get hives from being in Loserville for so long. C’mon babe, let’s go before we both get nose bleeds or something.”
She started to pull Tommy away. At first, it looked as if he was going to resist but then he seemed to change his mind and followed. I could have punched him the face for that. As they walked away though, he did turn and look at me. All I gave him in return was a rather nasty look before I turned and sat back down.
Penny was practically beaming. “Never a dull moment with you around is there?”
Great. She’s only my friend when the crazy shit happens.
“I hate that bitch,” said Frank as he sat back down a few seconds after I did.
“Just ignore her”
My repulsion for him was gone. I came to the realization just now that he and I were kindred in a way. Sure, he was still semi-popular; he wasn’t enough to be considered anything as far as Becky was concerned. Somehow he and I bonded on that.
“Sunday afternoon” I said and meant it.
“What?” he asked.
“I plan to go running again this Sunday and you’re more than welcome to join me.”
He smiled at that.
Boy, I hope I wasn’t going to regret that.
I looked at Mike and Penny. “You guys are welcome to come along too?”
Penny smiled big. “I’m not letting you out of my sight now. Everywhere you go, chaos seems to follow. It’s fantastic.”
She sounded almost giddy about it which was a complete 180 from before. Penny was definitely a weird one.
Mike said nothing but did give me a strange look nonetheless.
He wasn’t the only one either. A few of those who watched the exchange were looking my way as well. That was the second time I’d stood up to Becky and it looks like people were starting to take notice. Great, just what I needed. How can you be invisible when everyone was looking your way?
I picked up my fork and started to eat my lunch a moment later, ignoring all the stares I was getting as I did so.
Thankfully, the rest of the day was uneventful.
Unfortunately for me though, news of the lunchroom incident spread like wildfire. I definitely wasn’t keeping low key with all this crap that kept happening to me. The rumor followed me through the rest of day, picking up in pace and growing. By ninth period, it had turned into a fistfight between Becky and myself. Somehow, I was now an Amazon martial artist and kicked her ass. I’m not sure where that came from but it was pretty funny. By the time the day ended, people in the hall either stared at me in awe or fear. I’m not really sure how I felt about that. Just a few days ago, these very same people were sneering at me and calling me names and now they all wanted to be my friend? I guess I owed Becky a bit of thanks for that. Sure, I didn’t want any of this to happen but because of her bitchiness I was now nearly as popular as her.
Ok, not quite, but people knew who I was now.
I tried not to let it bother me as I thought of nothing else on the bus ride home. I did discover something interesting though. Penny rode my bus too which meant she lived in the same neighborhood as me. It was weird that I never noticed her before. This morning I had been in my own world and never saw her but today I made note when she got off two blocks from me. I would have to ask her about it tomorrow for sure. Maybe with us being so close like that we could even hang out after school sometime. I might actually finally get that normal teenage girl life I was so craving.
I was barely paying attention as the bus pulled up in front of my house. As soon as I hopped off though, my attention was immediately drawn to the foreign car in my driveway. It was a brand new black BMW. You didn’t see too many of those around here. I looked at the plates but I didn’t recognize the number. It took me only a moment to remember though. The car must have belonged to Mom’s colleague, the one who was going to stay with me while my parents were out of town. With everything that had happened today, I’d completely forgotten all about it.
I took a deep breath as I moved slowly up the walk. I opened the door and peeked my head inside, feeling like an intruder in my own home. The living room was vacant save for the black luggage sitting near the door. I took note of the three suitcases and cat carrier. So clearly my mother’s colleague had a cat. I’m sure Diamond was going to love that. I tried not to let that bother me as I dropped my book bag on the couch and wandered toward the kitchen.
“Hello?” I said, making my way around the corner.
I found my guests sitting at the table.
Well one of them was sitting. She was a severe looking woman in a gray business suit. She was just sitting there like she owned the place, a cup of coffee in hand. She was in mid sip when I walked in. I took note of her: her gray-flecked blonde hair pulled high on her head, the slight lines on an otherwise attractive face. It would have been even more attractive if she would smile but as it were she just gave me this cold, unwelcoming stare. It was the very same one her rather large companion was giving me. Bald, black and built like a linebacker. I’m guessing he had to be her Warden. It only made sense that Mom’s colleague would be a witch. I guess I was expecting someone normal but I guess that wasn’t in the cards.
“Please take a seat, Miss Daniels,” said the woman, pointing to the chair across from me.
She was bossing me around in my own house.
I didn’t want to seem rude so I did as I was told.
“My name is Magistrate Graham” she said, setting her mug down gently. “I have been asked by the Coven to come here and evaluate you.”
“Evaluate?” I asked, “You mean like a test?”
She didn’t respond, instead she said. “You will find your itinerary in front of you.”
I looked down and found a computer printout in front of me. I picked it up and found that it was a list of things, a very detailed and well planned out list. Five AM wake up, five thirty breakfast, six AM training then getting the school bus. She had my school schedule on there too but my eyes were drawn again, to what came after school. First, she penciled in a few hours for homework then there was more training. Training as in magic training?
“Wait” I said, looking up from the list. “Does this mean you’re my teacher too?”
She nodded. “You are to be instructed in the proper use and control of your craft.”
The way she said proper made it sound like I’d been improperly instructed before. I’m not sure I liked the way she just insulted Melissa like that.
The last two things on the list really pissed me off though. The first was a seven pm curfew, which was complete and total bull but the nine pm bedtime was the real kicker.
“I’m not a child,” I snapped.
“No, clearly not, but you are a pupil under my tutelage now and as such you will follow a strict guideline that will help nurture you in a proper manner.”
I scoffed at that. Nurture my ass. She just wanted to control me.
I knew I was going to hate all of this.
I tossed the paper on the table. I wanted to crumble it up and throw it in her face but I was trying not to be a total bitch today. Hey, someone had to set a good example around here. I wanted to get angry though. I wanted to leap up and slug her. I knew Mr. Muscles behind her would never let me get that close but I was almost willing to try. I did feel the anger seethe a bit though. I felt the usual tingle and boil. Magistrate Graham seemed to notice it too because she raised her eyebrow and her cold expression turned into something that might have resembled a smile. I knew her plan right then and there.
Me getting angry was what she wanted. She wanted me to lose control and do something stupid. It all made some kind of perfect, if not twisted sense. She said she’d been here to evaluate me. I actually mistook that to mean she was going to test me in some way. Here I thought it was to evaluate my power level or something but in truth she just wanted to see how long it took me to lose my temper. I could only fathom what the two of them might do if something like that were to happen.
I cursed. Now I knew why Mom was so pissed about all of this. She had to know this was coming. It was probably the real reason they were sent to Sacramento, too. These bastards---this new Coven---wanted to see how long it took me to blow my top and more than likely had a plan in place when I finally did.
So they wanted to play games with me fine then let them play.
I’m really good at games after all.
Author’s note: As I’m sure all of you know, comments are life blood to an author. I’m not begging or demanding, but I certainly would appreciate anything you have to say (or ask). It doesn’t have to be long and involved, just give me your reaction to the story. Thanks in advance...EOF
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