It should be a happy day. That was what birthdays were about. I had just turned thirteen. I was now officially a teenager and it made me feel a lot older.
Yes, I should be looking forward to today, but I wasn’t. ...
Sisters Forever ~ Chapter 1
By Susan Brown
I awoke to my iPhone alarm.
I had set it to random music, so I never knew what I was going to get. This morning it was Ocean Eyes by Owl City. As my father would say, ‘very apt.’
I listened to the music for a few minutes, gradually waking up. I wondered where he was. Then I remembered, he was in Hong Kong, attending another one of his conferences and doing a keystone speech about the latest wonder product that he was involved in. No doubt millions would see a recording of it on YouTube.
Dad owned a computer and software company, not one of those small start-ups, but mega big, almost as big as Microsoft and Apple and his was the only UK based company that went anywhere near to denting the monopoly of those two monoliths.
Dad had a very hands-on approach and didn’t like to delegate much, although he had thousands of people working for him and a very good board of directors. The result of that was he was away often, in some far-flung place, adding to the billions he already had.
Even on my birthday, he was away and that hurt.
It should be a happy day. That was what birthdays were about. I had just turned thirteen. I was now officially a teenager and it made me feel a lot older.
Yes, I should be looking forward to today, but I wasn’t.
Oh, by the way, I am known as George Carlyle and my dad is Robert Carlyle – yes that Robert Carlyle.
Mum was Marie Carlyle, the famous explorer and botanist, who like my dad, spent many months away from home doing her exploring thing.
Then there was Hannah, my twin and BFF.
You may think that we were a unhappy family, disjointed and often away from each other, but this hadn’t been so, as we had valued the times together and it made those times very special ones…
Sighing, I pulled off the quilt and got up. Stretching down to my bedside table, I picked up the control and pressed the relevant button that pulled the curtains away from the windows.
Walking over to the long floor length picture window, my eyes screwed up slightly as the strong sunlight hit my sleepy eyes.
It was nice that I could look out on the wonderful view of the ocean without being seen by anyone. If my dad or any of the help could see me now, there would be trouble. A boy of thirteen wearing a thin strappy knee length, salmon pink satin nightie was not the normal nightwear for a boy.
Only I wasn’t a boy in my eyes, I was a girl and always had been and my real name is Sophie and certainly not George.
Far below was our cove with its almost white sandy beach, reached via a footpath at the end of the landscape garden and some steps down through the steeply sloping ground. It was a private cove and beach, owned by us and we had the exclusive use of it. The only way to it was through our property unless you came in from the sea.
I loved this house and it wonderful location overlooking the sea and had always loved it here. Much of the time I was away at my expensive boarding school a boy’s one, up in Scotland, where men were men and people like me were erm, not.
School was okay and I had a few close friends up there. I was a bit nerdy and was always top of the class for most things, but then it wasn’t your normal, run of the mill boarding school where you had a bullying culture. It was for bright kids who actually enjoyed schoolwork. The three main requirements for joining the school were being extremely bright and willing to work your socks off academically and also having the money to pay its extortionate fees.
My only wish was that it was a girl’s only school and that I qualified for that.
I sighed. My life now wasn’t like it used to be.
Everything changed about eighteen months ago when my mum and my twin sister died in one of our private jets that went into a mountain instead of going over it.
Mum had gone over to Davos in Switzerland to bring back Hannah, from her exclusive private school.
Somehow, the plane had experienced some sudden turbulent weather over the Alps and we believe that there was some sort of engine failure too.
It took three weeks to find the bodies and it was only dental records that sorted out who was who...
I shook my head. I didn’t want think about that. I wanted to look forward, not back, but it was Hannah’s birthday too, so it was very hard to forget.
For some reason, I went over to the chest of drawers and opened the bottom one. There was a small jewellery box and I opened it. Inside was the bracelet, Hannah’s one. It was the only thing of hers that was recovered from the crash and surprisingly, it looked like new and it was unmarked and as shiny as the first day she wore it. It was what is known as a friendship necklace, where two people had a half each of the pendant which matched and joined as one when put together.
I fingered its other half, always around my neck, day and night. After some moments, I sadly closed the box and shut the drawer.
Looking at the clock, I decided that there was no rush to do anything today, so I decided to go back to bed and lay down on top of the covers for just a few more minutes before having to dress as a boy again.
My thoughts turned back once more to my sister.
Hannah and I were close, very close and had always been so. She knew that I was a girl inside and she carried my secret to the grave. No one else would understand why I felt that I was a girl with the need to dress like one and be treated as the person I knew I was.
We could have been into the sibling rivalry thing, but it was never like that. Mum always said that we were like two peas in a pod; we were so alike, it was scary. We even had the same length of hair, something Dad hated; but Mum always insisted that I was just showing my individuality and anyway, as far as she was concerned, it was cute!
Smiling, I recalled that on a couple of occasions Hannah and I swapped clothes and pretended to be each other, it worked and not even our parents knew which was which, and parents are supposed to know.
In the privacy of our own rooms, when we could get away with it, I wore some of Hannah’s clothes and it was lovely to look a bit more the way I felt. We behaved as sisters and it was so nice to share girlie secrets and play girls games.
As we grew older, Hannah and I talked about what it would be like to grow older, date boys and maybe get married one day to a lovely caring man; she was as convinced as I was that I was a girl inside. I know it was all pipe dreams to me, talking about boys and marriage, but I loved to dream about things and it sometimes felt so real and achievable.
Our parents were totally ignorant of all this and thought that I was just a normal, if quiet and introverted boy. We kept everything secret, as we knew that they would not approve of what we were doing.
Dad wanted me to grow up to be big and strong, play games like cricket and rugger and, if you like, be an image of himself when he was my age.
Mum wasn’t bothered about all that, she just loved both Hannah and I unconditionally.
I missed Mum so much that it still hurt and would probably do so for the rest of my life. I missed her love, her kisses and cuddles and the way she laughed – so many little things that seemed normal and permanent were now lost and gone forever.
With Hannah it was like I had lost a part of me and I felt empty inside without her. She was my other half, my best friend and confidant, the one who I shared my secrets with and would die for.
In an instant Mum and Hannah had been snatched away from us.
Dad felt bad as well, I knew, although he didn’t talk about it. After the accident he threw himself into his work and spent even more time away. I knew when he saw me, he was seeing an almost a mirror image of Hannah and it must have been tearing him apart.
He was kind and gentle with me and never took out the frustrations I knew that he had. But he grew quieter and didn’t laugh as much. He became withdrawn and threw himself more and more into work.
Looking at my clock, I saw that I had to get moving. Taking off my nightie and folding it carefully, I went and had a shower and then dressed in a t-shirt and cropped trousers. I brushed my long hair and put it in a low ponytail. I was as ready as I would ever be.
I made my bed and tidied up. I wouldn’t allow anyone in my rooms and had to do everything myself; no big deal.
I went out and closed the door. It locked automatically and would only open using one of the two key cards that only my father and I had access to. He never came into my room as he respected my privacy and it was a good thing that he didn’t, as he would find certain things that he would not approve of, i.e. a closet full of girls clothes.
It helped that I had a debit card with a huge balance that was mine to use as I wished.
I went downstairs to the kitchen and had some cereal, eating it at the breakfast bar that overlooked the gardens.
‘Hello George, happy birthday.’
‘Hi Brenda,’ I replied, ‘thanks.’
Brenda was our cook. She was about forty and had been with us since I was a baby. She was almost family as far as I was concerned.
She came over and kissed me on the forehead and then went over to the sink to wash some vegetables.
I was kind of pleased that she didn’t say much. I think that she was sensitive to my feelings, knowing that this was only the second birthday that I had without my sister and Mum.
Brenda’s husband Ron was the gardener and they both lived in the house, as did Dave the handyman, Phillip Tranter, dad’s personal assistant and then there was Julia who could only be described as my minder.
Why did I need a minder?
Well, officially Julia was what was known as a security operative. Her role was to make sure I didn’t get into trouble, get kidnapped or molested in any way. With a father who was at the last count, the fifth richest man in the world, there is always the chance that he or members of his family (like me) would be targets for undesirables.
Julia wasn’t the only minder, but she was the one that had most contact with me. There were several about, some in house and some outside, who prowled about unnoticed.
Julia was lovely looking, with a body to die for, aged about twenty five and had a black belt in everything legal and no doubt some things illegal too.
So the house was never empty but sometimes I still felt alone.
‘Penny for your thoughts dear?’ asked Brenda.
‘Nothing,’ I replied.
‘It isn’t nothing to miss your loved ones.’
‘It isn’t fair Bren.’
‘No one ever said that it was George. It’s natural to feel down. I know I would in your situation. But your mum and sister wouldn’t want you moping about with a long face on your birthday now would they?’
‘No, I suppose not.’
‘Is your dad ringing you today?’
‘Yes, he’s seven hours ahead of us and he said that he would ring me after his speech, about one o’clock here.’
‘That’s nice, so what are you going to do with yourself this morning?’
‘You should keep yourself busy so you don’t dwell on things. Why don’t you go out on your bike, you know that you enjoy that.’
‘Yea, I probably will.’ I replied.
‘Don’t forget to tell Julia.’
‘I know.’ I replied with a sigh. Just going for a simple bike ride wasn’t as simple as it should be. Don’t let anyone tell you that being in a rich family is all fun and games, its not.
So I went out for my bike ride.
I had the full Sky kit on and with my incredibly lightweight top of the range carbon fibre bike, I looked the part.
I wasn’t very sporty, and certainly didn’t like soccer, rugger or cricket, but I did love cycling and although I say so myself, I’m pretty good and was a member of the local club.
Of course there was always the thorny question of security and I was always known as George Tilney at the club, Tilney being my mothers maiden name. Other members of the club had no idea who I really was and more importantly who my father was.
We kept my face well away from the media circus that surrounded my dad, as we didn’t want me to stand out and be noticed. I just wanted to blend in and using my mums maiden name was a minor white lie that I was happy to live with.
Anyway, I decided to go out on my bike. It would be nice if I could be like other kids and just go, but I wasn’t like other kids, I had security issues and that meant that Julia had to go with me too. Luckily, she was quite good on a bike too and we had provided her with a great bike and some Garmin kit too, so that she wouldn’t be out of place when she rode with me. She did have her own bike at home, but it was nothing like the one she got to ride with me. She thought at it was a lone bike, but as far as I was concerned, she would keep it.
So we went out on our bikes for a quick thirty miler up and down the hills of Cornwall and there are plenty of those!
I always pretended not to notice the Range Rover, full of security staff that followed us at a safe and discrete distance whenever we ventured out.
I loved the freedom of riding. I was on my bike, wearing neat unisex riding kit. With my hair in a ponytail under my helmet and sunglasses, I think I looked quite girlie and I loved that.
Julia was by me, doing her thing, making sure that no kidnapper could get his or her claws on me.
The most dangerous thing that occurred on our ride was the occasional mad driver who seemed love driving an inch away from us as they passed. And then there was this idiot of a woman who opened her car door just as we were passing. It was a good job that we were observant and missed the door by a whisker.
When we arrived home, I was all sweaty and horrible, so I went up to my room and had a quick shower. I had to be quick as Dad was due to ring me shortly and one thing he was keen on was sticking to the timetable.
Being on my own, with the knowledge that no one could just burst into my room, I put on a cotton blouse and denim skirt, thinking that my dad would have a fit if he saw me wearing those clothes. Brushing out my unfashionable (for a boy, that is) long hair, I walked over to the window and looked out to sea. There were a few boats dotted about on the horizon and closer in a sailing dinghy, its white sail, contrasting with the rather choppy deep blue of the sea.
The view was ever changing, with the winds and tides, the variable weather and anything from dense fog to bright, Mediterranean type, wall-to-wall sunshine. Then there was the stormy weather, terrifying to be out on, but very exciting to watch. I had seen it all from this window and I never tired of it.
Right on time, my phone rang.
‘Hello Son, happy birthday.’
‘So, what have you been up to?’
‘Not much, just went out for a bike ride with Julia.’
‘That’s good. Do you need another bike?’
‘No, my one’s fine.’
‘What about kit?’
‘That’s OK too. I can always use my debit card if I need anything.’
‘When we’ve finished speaking, go look in the garage.’
‘It’s a surprise.’
‘Oh, right. Erm thanks. Anyway, how is your trip?’
‘Same old. Its getting a bit harder, what with the world economy still going through difficult times, but I think that our latest tablet will be a game changer with it’s free smart watch. That’s what most of the experts think. Time will tell.’
There was a pause and then said what I believed that we were both thinking.
‘Dad, I miss them.’
‘I know George; I miss them too. Not a day goes by when I wish that they were still with us. We have to move on. They wouldn’t want us to mope about. We must do the best we can to make the most of things.’
‘When are you coming home?’
‘About three weeks time.’
‘I’ll be back at school then.’
‘I’ll come and visit you. We’ll go out for the day. I’m sure the headmaster won’t mind.’
I didn’t think so either, considering the amount of money we poured into the place. I still cringe when I go into the Marie Carlyle Memorial Gymnasium.
We spoke for a few minutes more, but then I heard Phillip, Dad’s PA say something in the background.
‘Sorry George, I have to go. I’ll speak to you soon. Now, don’t forget to go and look in the garage.’
‘Okay, I will; love you.’
‘I love you too, Son, bye now.’
The phone went dead.
I didn’t rush to the garage, as I did not want to change my clothes just yet. I thought about putting on some makeup, although only thirteen, I thought that it made me look a bit older and maybe more sophisticated.
Who was I kidding?
Mind you, Hannah always said that makeup made her look older and she helped me look nice sometimes and had taught me how not to look like a clown on the rare occasions when our parents were both away and we had time to ourselves.
Hannah was the funny outgoing twin and I was the introvert. Knowing as I did that I was really a girl inside made me feel very self-conscious and not a little bit shy. Hannah was the popular one at school. When we were younger, we went to a mixed prep school and she got on well with everyone and was very popular. I just tried to blend into the background and not get bullied.
Ever the joker, Hannah always seemed to get into trouble and had once put some superglue on a teacher’s chair and the teacher got stuck. She was in detention for weeks over that affair and it was only my parents’ influence that stopped her being expelled.
All too soon we were sent to senior school. Hannah to a finishing school in Switzerland, where she would be made into a Lady and I to the boarding school in the middle of nowhere so that they could make a man out of me. This, we were told, was to make us better people and not so reliant on one another.
We hated being apart. For me, it was like I was cut in half, with the other part of me, several hundred miles away. I know that Hannah felt the same. If she had stayed in the UK for her education, both her and my mother would still be alive today.
After a while, I got changed into my boy clothes and went downstairs. The garage, which at the moment held three cars, was around the back of the house in a separate building, built to hold several cars. I rarely went in there as my bike was kept in what we called the boot room, which was just a place to put raincoats, wellies and other wet weather gear.
I used a remote on my key ring to open the three doors of the garage. At either end were my parent’s cars, a Jag for Dad and then there was Mum’s Merc, unmoved since her death and the estate Land Rover.
In a space in the middle of the garage was an expensive looking, no doubt top of the range, quad bike. There was a big blue ribbon tied to the handlebars and a card that said Happy Birthday George!
I walked over, and in smaller writing the card said. “We’ll have a go at it when I come back, love Dad XXXX”
I smiled; Dad was a gadget nut and that reflected in his work, but what little down time that he had, he liked to play with anything on two three or four wheels, and then there was the racing yacht, two jets, three gliders and a few other rich man type playthings. For example, Dad had a Jag that he used for his day to day work, but he also owned two Porsches, several Ferrari’s, A Bugatti and other sports cars, too many to mention. He also had a BMW motorbike and a Honda Fireblade...
Now he wanted me to follow in his footsteps. I already had a go-kart and now he wanted me to try quad biking. Will he never learn? I wasn’t into things like this. The only sporty thing I liked was to ride my bike as fast as I can and as far as I can. I had no real interest in motorised sports of any kind, except, maybe the racing yacht.
I would wait until he came home, make the right noises and look enthusiastic for his sake and anyway, I wanted to see him more and this was the way to do it.
Dad, being a widower now, was considered the most eligible catch for marriage, but he showed little interest in that sort of thing, so far. His love of all things fast and furious would have made him a target for opportunistic women of all ages. However, the fact that he was super rich and so high profile made him even a bigger catch and the media was always linking him with some starlet or A list celeb.
I didn’t know how I would feel if he married again.
I left the garage and the expensive playthings and then went back into the house. Changing into a sort of unisex singlet and shorts, I went down to the gym and used the equipment there. I had no muscles to speak of, but I like to keep my body toned and balanced, as it helped with my overall fitness and my bike riding in particular.
I won’t go into the boring details of the torture chamber, but needless to say at the end of my session I was hot and sticky, so I went next door and changing into swimming trunks and did ten lengths of the Olympic sized pool. It had a retractable roof and in the summer and at night, it was closed; but now, as it was warm and sunny, it was open air.
Julia was in there at the time and was doing some lengths too. I wasn’t anything like as fast as her and I marvelled at how well she glided along almost without effort but managed to go twice as fast as me.
After my swim and feeling refreshed, I sat beside Julia as we dried our hair off and noticed that my hair was almost as long as hers, which was nice.
‘Are you enjoying your birthday?’
‘It’s not bad.’
‘But not as good as when you had your sister around?’
I fingered my pendant as I thought about what Julia had said. It was warm to touch.
‘We always had so much fun. I loved to see what presents she had been given and then she enjoyed it, when I opened mine. Then Mum and Dad were normally there on our birthday and now Mum has gone and Dad spends so little time with me.’
‘Your dad has to work, you know that.’
‘I know, it’s just…’
I let it hang in the air. There just wasn’t much else I wanted to say. Shortly after, I went back up to my room as I felt the need to change back into my more girlie mode.
After taking a shower to wash off the chlorine and other chemicals used in the pool, I dried myself off and just wearing my panties, I dried my hair using the dryer. I then used the straighteners as my hair had an annoying kink half way down, if left to itself.
Once I had finished, I noticed that it was lunch time, so I put on some crops and a t-shirt, as unisex a colour and style that I could get away with and after another quick brush of my hair and then putting it in a low pony tail, I was ready to go down to have something to eat.
I ate my sandwich in the breakfast room, which, like many of the rooms in the house, faced the sea. A few people, like Brenda and Ron, her husband, came in and wished me a happy birthday, but, in the main, I was as usual, left to my own devices.
That was the problem; they were not my friends. Oh, they were friendly and Julia was the friendliest of the lot, but there was no one of my own age around now and it made me feel lonely in a house that had quite a few people around.
The rest of the afternoon, I found it hard to find anything interesting to do. I watched The Princess Bride for the umpteenth time and then I had a look on the Internet for a few clothes that I might buy. Then, taking my iPhone and earphones, I went outside and walked down to the beach. I could go there by myself as it was a safe and secluded beach where the only theoretical access other than from the house was from the sea and there were special barriers under water to stop even that possibility.
I walked along the beach, the waves gently lapping on my feet as I went. The water was a bit cool, as it was only June and it was too early in the year for it to be that warm yet.
I fingered my necklace; it was feeling rather warm, but that wasn’t surprising as it was a hot day.
My thoughts turned as they had for much of the day on the people that were missing from my life. Mum always said that I was a deep thinker and I suppose that’s true.
I could hear the sound of a powerful motorboat engine, out to sea. Squinting in the sunlight, I could see someone on water ski’s trailing behind the sleek motorboat and crossing then re-crossing the wake expertly.
I had tried water skiing on a holiday once and wasn’t much good. Hannah was more successful and managed to keep upright for a lot long. To be fair to me though, I was a better skier on snow and I rather enjoyed it. Hannah always complained that she was cold, but I told her that she was just being too girlie. Rather a laugh that, as I was considered by both of us to be more feminine in my ways, given the chance.
Looking at my watch, I noticed that it was getting late. I was expected back for dinner and I didn’t want to cause our cook Brenda any problems. Although she was normally quite flexible about meal times, I knew that she particularly wanted me to sit down at six and I needed to get a move on.
I managed to sit down with a minute to spare. I would have liked to have worn a pretty party dress as it was after all my birthday, but had to stay as I was, in boy mode.
Dinner was one of my favourites, Chicken Kiev with new boiled potatoes. It was a lovely meal, but I was alone in the dining room. Julia had asked if I wanted her to eat with me, but I said no. I was getting to the stage of being a bit of a recluse and wanting my own company.
It was strange that, I was lonely, but I didn’t want company.
A thirteen year old who wants to be alone is not a good thing. On my visits to my therapist, she said that it was because I was frightened to get too close to anyone else, just in case I lost them again as I did with my mum and sister.
Dad did his best, but he was dealing with his own issues too. I didn’t know who was worse, him or me!
My birthday cake was a nice as under the icing was a sponge cake. I wasn’t keen on heavy fruitcake or marzipan. There were thirteen candles and everyone came in and sang happy birthday and Brenda told me to make a wish as I blew out the candles.
I made my wish, but it was one that I knew would never be answered. I was conscious of the fact that my pendant, hanging around my neck ,warmed slightly as I made my wish, reminding me that I would never again share my birthday with Hannah.
After thanking everyone for their kindness and receiving more than one affectionate hug, I shared the cake around and it was judged to be truly delicious. After a while, most of the people drifted off just leaving Julia and I.
‘Did you see the quad bike?’ I asked.
‘Yes, it looks great. Your dad asked me to arrange it for you as he’s been away. Do you like it?’
‘Yes, it’ll be fun to ride around the estate on it. Dad said that he would come out with me. What’s the betting that he’s ordered one for himself.’
We both laughed.
I ate two slices of the cake and after talking a bit about the bike ride we would be going on early the next day–a steep hill climb workout, I told Julia that I was going to have an early night, as I was a bit tired.
Soon I was back up in my room with the door closed and locked, as I didn’t want to be disturbed.
After a quick shower with my hair covered with a hat to stop it getting wet, I changed into a lemon cotton, knee length nightie, as I was rather hot.
Then I went over to the window, as I brushed my hair out. I noticed that there was still a glow on the horizon where the sun had set about three quarters of an hour before. I could just about make out the waves breaking up onto the beach, where the tide was out. Overhead, seagulls were still flying about looking for what food was on offer and their raucous calls echoed around the bay.
Out to sea, I could see the bright lights of what looked like a cruise ship and I wondered where it was going and if the passengers on board were excited about their trip. Apart from Dads racing yacht, he also had an ocean going 100 foot Marlow Explorer 97E and we had, in the past, visited the USA, Caribbean and the Mediterranean in it. We hadn’t used it since the accident.
I fingered my pendant and it still felt strangely warm, warmer than it should be. I felt a tear go down my cheek. I thought that I had done all the crying by now, but obviously not.
For some reason, I went over to the drawer where my sisters’ pendant and necklace was and once again, as I had earlier, removed the lid of the box where it was kept.
I stared down at it as I fingered mine and then I touched it.
It felt warm, as warm as mine, and it seemed to glow slightly!
Taking it out of the box, I looked at it carefully; there was a definite glow. Looking at my pendant, I saw that it was glowing too! I couldn’t understand it, but almost in a trance, I placed Hannah’s necklace around my neck, fumbling slightly as I did so.
Then, without my touching them, as if drawn by magnets, the two halves of the pendants came together as one.
There was a flash of light and a gust of wind from somewhere that nearly threw me off my feet. Shaking slightly, I went over to my bed and sat down heavily. I felt strangely disorientated, sort of out of focus and then I shuddered violently.
I was feeling incredibly tired and almost without thinking, I lay back on my bed, and was, before I knew it, asleep.
I had no idea if I was awake or asleep, strange thoughts seemed to drift through my mind and for a moment, I had no idea who or where I was.
From a long way, I heard a voice.
The voice got nearer.
‘Sophie, wake up!’
My eyes snapped open.
I was lying on my bed and it was dark outside. My bedside lamp was on and that was the only illumination in my room.
Sitting up, I shook my head, which wasn’t a good idea, as I had a headache.
I had had the weirdest dream, but I couldn’t remember much of it. I think that I was with my mum in the plane just before it crashed, I was terrified and clinging on to Mum… and then everything went hazy as I heard my girl name being called, over and over…
I had a raging thirst and I went into my bathroom and using my tooth mug I opened the tap and filled it up with water.
Drinking thirstily, I immediately felt better and my head cleared somewhat.
Switching on the mirror light, I looked at the mirror. I seemed to have two reflections for a moment, as if I had double vision.
I shook my head and then I could see more clearly. Everything was back to normal…
‘Sophie, there you are.’
The bathroom was empty. Going out to the bedroom, I looked around; no one was there. I was getting seriously spooked. My door was locked and you need a swipe card to get in. what was going on?
‘Sophie, its me, Hannah.’
‘H…Hannah, where are you?’
‘Inside you, silly. Isn't this fun!’
This is the first chapter of a series I am thinking of exploring. Just like on TV, I am putting this out to see if there would be any interest in this type of stories. Please give me your opinion and a few kudos would be nice too!
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