“Mr Charlton, unless you are prepared to tell me your troubles I really see no point in us continuing these sessions. Well?”
I’m Paul Charlton and I’m sitting ‘in the Psychiatrists Chair’. I was here because I'd lost it in a very big way and had a breakdown. That breakdown had led to the end of my marriage and thence to me becoming homeless and virtually penniless. Now three years later I was trying to rebuild my life but one huge thing was getting in the way. That was my secret.
I didn’t reply straight away. That didn’t matter to Dr Yacub Pakker, my Psychiatrist.
Eventually, I said,
“I have always wanted to be a woman. Ever since I was a small child I wanted to be a girl, play with girly things. Being sent to a boy’s school, wear boys clothes, forced to play football was torture. I really tried to conform but in the end I lost it big time.”
Dr Pakker smiled back at me.
“Isn’t that a lot better? Wanting to be someone of a different sex is not the taboo it once was.”
“Really? With my family?”
“What family? I don’t see them in your life.”
“Oh, they are there in the background. Just waiting for me to get myself together again. All through this, there has been someone watching me and making sure that I don’t bring the good name of my family into disrepute.”
“So your problem is more with them than wanting to be a woman?”
“Go fuck yourself. They have had me committed twice. Both times was when I tried to get accepted to a gender re-assignment programme. They almost succeeded is getting me committed for a third time when I had a vasectomy. They think it is my duty as the only son to continue the family line. Bollocks to that.”
“So you had it done then?”
“Damm right I did.”
“So you have tried living as a woman?”
“Yes, yes I have. I got to six months and was about to be accepted into a gender re-assignment programme when they got me sent to some sanatorium in Switzerland. Took me nine fucking months to convince those Nazi doctors that I was not insane.”
“Yet you agreed to these sessions?”
“Part of my divorce from my Family. If you give me the all clear, then I will get an injunction stopping my family from having anything to do with me ever again.”
Before anyone could say another word, the timer indicating the end of the session rang.
“Well, Mr Charlton. I think we are getting somewhere at last.”
“I suppose so.”
“Same time next week?”
“That will be Christmas Eve. I’m on shift all day.”
“I understand. Why don’t you call my secretary after the holidays to arrange your next session?”
“I will do that. Unless I haven’t been sent away again.”
Five minutes later in the Doctors rooms.
“Hello? Is that Sir Reginald Charlton?”
“Yes. Dr Pakker here. Your son has finally revealed that he wants to be a woman.”
“Yes. He managed to keep it quiet until the fifth session.”
“Yes. He very is afraid of being committed again.”
“Understood. After the next session in the New Year.”
[Meanwhile in Heaven]
“Sir, there is a situation that needs your attention?” said the Angel to her boss, Gabriel.
“What is it now? Can’t you see that I’m busy?” replied the Archangel Gabriel who was very engrossed in a Soccer Match.
“Who’s winning? City or United?”
“Our side naturally. Can’t have those Red Devils winning now can we eh?”
Just then a whistle came from the virtual TV indicating half-time.
“You have 15 minutes of my very valuable time. Out with it then?”
“Sir, you should see this.”
The Angel replayed some of the scene in where the revelation was made and the full scene where the Doctor phoned the subject’s family.
At the end, the Angel looked expectantly at his Boss.
“Hmmm. You were right to bring this to our attention. Does the family have links to the ‘other side’?”
“Yes Sir,” replied the Angel handing his boss a thick file.
“Ok. Ok. Then there is only one thing to do isn’t there?”
“And what is that?”
“Send in Angel Charlie? She's good at fixing things.”
“Perfect. Tell her she has a week.”
“Sir, isn’t that a bit tight?”
The Archangel grinned.
“I have a special assignment for her after this one.”
The image of Donald Trump appeared in place of the virtual TV set.
“Oh I see…” replied the angel having difficulty stopping himself from laughing.
“Well. What are you doing here then?”
“Sorry Sir!” said the Angel as his image dissolved.
[Back on Earth]
After the session with the shrink, I headed into the town centre where it was time for my shift at ‘The Ship’ Public House and Restaurant. I had a job but nothing special. I washed the dishes and did a lot of the food prep. It paid enough to put a room over my head and food on the table. I got by but it was a far cry from ‘before’.
Before my blow up, I was an advisor to the Governor of the Bank of England. I’d been on a very good salary with lots of perks. Now I was getting just above the minimum wage. Any more than that and the leech that was my ex-wife would take it in a flash despite her earning nearly ten times what I did in a good year.
The next day, my world such as it was came crashing down. Along with the other members of staff, we were gathered in the bar before opening time. The Landlord, Joe Fisher came in looking very sad.
“I’m sorry to say that after Christmas, everyone of us will have to look for a new job. The company that owns the pub is being taken over by Campsie Inns. They have a reputation of getting rid of everyone who was employed by the companies they take over. Apparently, we are no exception.”
I held back my anger. Campsie Inns was a company controlled by my bastard brother Nigel.
“The only bit of good news is that Campsie will have to pay us all a years salary in order to get round the EU, TUPE legislation. As you know, under current rules, the first thirty grand is free of tax. There will be glowing references from me as well so it can’t be all bad.”
A few of my colleagues let out a little smile. I just groaned.
“Why the groan Paul?” asked Sandra, the head Chef.
“My ex will take 95% of that pay-out once the taxman has taken his share.”
“That’s so unfair.”
“That's why you should never marry a scheming bitch,” I said bitterly.
[Up in Heaven]
“Charlie, are you clear on your mission?” asked the Angel as they viewed the scene in the Pub.
“Yes. The poor man. He really needs our help.”
“But you know the rules…”
“Yes Sir, I know the rules. I shoud do. How many centuries have I been doing this job eh?”
[the next day]
Everyone was trying to put on a brave face but our hearts weren’t in it. The landlord got us all together again.
“Look team. We have a huge number of bookings to satisfy before midnight on the 24th. Can we at least try to put a brave face on things? Who knows, we might get a few decent tips once word gets out about the takeover.”
“Aren’t we supposed to keep quiet about it?” asked Terry Thomas, the head barman.
No one said anything. In the end I said,
“Apparently they want us to keep quiet but the company will have to release details of the take-over before the Stock Exchange closes for the holidays. That is midday on the 22nd. Once that has happened they can’t stop us telling the world.”
“They can stop us getting the payoff. And don’t even think about trying to take them to court.
Some staff from the Excelsior chain have only just settled and they lost their jobs ten years ago. You don’t cross the Charlton Family and live happily ever after.” grumbled Sandra.
“Hey Paul, isn’t Charlton your name? Any relation?” asked Terry.
I forced a slight smile.
“If I was would I be washing dishes and doing food prep here?”
[Later that evening]
“Ok Chef, can I knock off now. Everything is put away and the meat for tomorrow is out of the freezer.”
“Yes. Paul. Off you go. See you tomorrow. You are really good back here. It will be a real shame to have to stop working with you.”
“Thanks Chef I really appreciate that.”
I left the pub and headed towards my home such that it was. A room over the local Post Office. It was cold and soulless. But it wasn’t damp like my last place. A few of my possessions made it feel a bit like home.
I trudged up the stairs towards the door to my room when unexpectedly, the door to one of the other rooms burst open.
There standing like a silhouette from heaven against the warm light from inside the room was a very curvy woman.
“Hi. You must be Paul. I’m Charlie. I moved in here today.”
“Wha… Wh…. Wh….”
“The cat got your tongue?”
Open mouthed, I nodded.
She laughed saying,
“I get that a lot.”
I still couldn’t say anything.
“You are a cutie aren’t you. Erica’s loss is another persons gain, eh?”
Hearing the name of that money grabbing bitch of an ex-wife got my mind back into gear.
“How do you know about her?”
“I know an awful lot about you. Did you know that your shrink makes regular reports to your father? You really can’t trust anyone these days can you especially when membership of the Golf Club is concerned.”
You could have knocked me down with a feather.
“What do you want from me?” I said being my normal defensive self.
“All in good time Paulie, all in good time. I expect you are rather tired from your job. Why don’t you go off to bed and get a good night’s rest and we can pick this up in the morning. Am I right in saying that you don’t have to report to work until midday?”
I guess I mist have nodded because the next thing she did was to blow me a kiss and suddenly I was alone outside my door wondering what the hell had just happened.
As I climbed into bed that night my mind was racing about in all directions. It hade been quite a day. Up, down, up, down and now Charlie. How had she known all that stuff about me?
The next thing I knew my alarm was going off at 06:30. I didn’t remember going to sleep or anything about the night at all. I felt strangely relaxed. I hadn’t felt like this in years.
I’d showered, dressed put the coffee on and even made my favourite breakfast, two poached eggs on toast and was sitting down to eat it before an hour had passed. Whatever Charlie had done, it was working. I am not a morning person yet today, I felt on top of the world.
Just before 08:00 there was a knock on the door. I knew who it was. The butterflies roared around my stomach as I opened the door to Charlie.
“That smells good,” she said as she breezed into my one and a bit room home.
Normally, I would have resisted but she seemed to have some fluence over me. My home is not something I’m proud of. In my state of finance beggars can’t be choosers. I didn’t even have a TV.
I was still standing at the door by the time Charlie had started pouring herself a cup of coffee. One of the perks of my job was the occasional half dozen eggs and packet of coffee.
“Can I pour you one?” asked Charlie as if she owned the place. To be honest seeing her in the half light that is early morning in December she appeared to be radiating light from every pore of her beautiful body. Why was she even giving me the time of day? With her beauty and obvious brain, she could be with just about any man on the planet.
“Yes please,” I replied stutteringly as I closed the door.
“Good. We have a lot to do and I only have a little time in which to do it,” said Charlie as she handed me a mug of coffee. She’d put just the right amount of milk into it for this time of day. I stared at the mug wondering how she did it.
Then she told me.
“I’m your guardian angel. The man upstairs has decided that you have drawn the short straw far too often and through no fault of yours. He told me to say that he made a mistake with you when you were just a few cells inside your mother’s womb. If you want it, he’d like to make amends.”
The mug of coffee just dropped out of my hand and fell onto the floor. Or rather it would have if Charlie had not done something to stop it in mid air. Then he lifted her finger and pointed at the top of the worktop. The mug simply lifted up and set it self down where she’d indicated.
“Does that little demonstration show you that I mean what I said?”
My mouth was giving a good dying fish impersonation but somehow I nodded my head.
“Good. Why don’t we get down to work?”
“Anything you say. You seem to know more about me that I do?”
“Your dossier is pretty thick but I can speed read so it wasn’t too difficult to get on top of it on the way down.”
Her fluence on me was obviously working at full strength because I just believed every word she said without question.
“Now Paul we have to plan your transition. We need to do it in a way that will not get your family involving the police when you suddenly disappear. Does that make sense?”
“I suppose so.”
“It is fortunate that you are going to lose your job at the end of the month. That means everyone in your circle of friends will be going their separate ways. If you disappear no one except your family would notice would they?”
“I suppose so?”
Then I asked,
“What will happen? To me that is?”
“Whatever you want. However, my orders are clear in two things. Firstly, you will get rid of that noose your family has put around your neck. Secondly and this is not for negotiation, you will become a woman. What sort of woman is up to you and only you!”
“And if I say no?”
Charlie looked sad.
“That is not an option. Once ‘HE’ has made up his mind even nuclear war would not change it. HE is very ashamed that his mistake has led you to experience so much pain. Most of that is down to your family so they will be dealt with in due course. HE thinks that at least one of them has sold their soul to thingy downstairs. From reading your dossier, I tend to agree with him.”
Her words started to sink in.
“When? Will you be there to help me? I would like that.”
“When is easy. Christmas Day seems an appropriate time for a re-birth don’t you think? As for me, I can’t be there after that. Apparently, I have another assignment starting on the 26th.”
“Will it happen here?”
Charlie looked around at my home. It was little more than a slum.
“Do you think that a place such as this would be appropriate for the person you are going to become?”
I couldn’t argue with her infallible logic.
“What is to become of me? What? My only training is more than likely going to be of no use in the future so essentially, I have no skills that are going to be of use in my new life.”
“That is the male side of your brain speaking. Over time the parts of your brain that have been lying dormant for far too long will kick into action and you can become pretty well anything you want to… Apart from President of the USA. We had a real hard time placing the current one so HE has deemed that it won’t happen again. You do have one key skill than that is of life. You have been through the wringer. That makes you a better person all round.”
I didn’t know what to say.
“Why don’t we get down to details?” suggested Charlie.
As she said it, and as if she’d conjured it up from thin air, a small computer appeared in front of her.
“This is our person designer system. With this you can design the new you. All your physical features.”
“But I’ll still be a man with a mans memories?”
“The cool part of this model is that we can give you a proper and moreover totally real past with all the memories that go with it. If you want to keep your male memories, then we can push them into the background. You can remember everything apart from one thing.”
“Oh, and what is that?”
“You won’t remember me, this meeting or the detail of your transition. We can’t risk letting him down there get hold of the technology that enables this to happen.”
I must have nodded my head because the next thing to happen was that Charlie built what she thought was the new me in a matter of seconds.
“Here! What do you think?” she said as she turned the computer towards me.
I looked at it with great anticipation. I had a good idea of what my dream woman would look like.
“But….” Was all I could say.
“I know. I’m good aren’t I?”
“You got it right.”
“I would not be very good at my job as your guardian angel if I didn’t do my homework.”
I just looked at her with slightly damp eyes.
“Ok, I got into your brain last night. You had a dream about becoming her. You have the same dream almost every night.”
“I don’t remember.”
“Not last night but surely you can remember other nights.”
“Yes I can and she’s almost perfect,” I replied trying to get back on track. There are a few dreams that I’d rather not talk about to anyone.
“What’s wrong?” said a slightly indignant Charlie.
It was my turn to smile.
“You gave her unequal length legs. Well, that image seems to show that. I can’t wear killer heels with a hop-along gait now can I?”
“Yes. You are right. It must have been the view I was seeing her from in your thoughts.”
With a deft movement of her hand she made the image change to one of total perfection. Well in my eyes it was.
“Good. Now the rest of the details. Your past and name and…”
“Ok, I get it.”
Two hours later we were done. Charlie headed for the door.
“Charlie!” I called out.
“Yes Fiona,” she replied grinning and using what was to be my net name.
Charlie grinned as she came back to me and gave me a full on kiss.
“Like it?” she asked softly when we came up for air.
“Yes I do.”
“Well, I foresee that you will get into a relationship with a woman who can kiss just as well if not better than me.”
Then she was gone and I had to go to work. My shift today was going to be difficult. I had a lot of things to think about.
Several of my colleagues commented that I wasn’t really with it. I fobbed them off by saying that I was worried about the future. They agreed that it didn’t look good.
One of them said,
“We should make the best of our time left and go out with a smile on our faces. That way those coming behind us will have a tough act to follow.”
The more I thought about it, the more it became clear that they were right.
It didn’t take long for everyone to agree. Then it spread to our regulars. Then the local press got involved and this led to the story appearing on local TV. At first I wondered what my family would do to stop my 15 nano seconds of fame but the bandwagon had gathered enough momentum that doing anything overt would look bad on them.
Two days before Christmas, I returned home just before midnight to find access to the building blocked. A huge notice of the door said ‘Keep Out Rodent Infection’.
In small print, I saw the name of a company that was owned by my family. They had to keep me down no matter what.
I sat on the step wondering what I could do when a familiar shape came out of the shadows and came towards me.
“Hello Charlie. Am I glad to see you!”
“I thought you might be. When I was told about this, I hurried back to wait for you. They won’t let you acheive anything will they?”
“Yeah. They’d rather I just gave up and ended things.”
“Don’t talk like that. ‘He’ does not like any defeatist talk.”
“I have thought about it from time to time. On the bright side, the sort of existence they let me have does have one advantage and that is I have no responsibilities. So they have locked me out of my home. Do I have any possessions that are worth saving? Nope. So I pick myself up and get on with my life such as it is,” I said lying through my face.
“That’s the spirit,” said Charlie with a smile on her face.
I looked at her expectantly.
“I guess you would like somewhere to stay?”
“Yes please. I did a twelve hour shift today. We are planning a huge party for Christmas Eve.”
“I know. Good for all of you. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”
She offered me her hand.
I stood up and took it. As we touched something happened to me. I felt different.”
“What did you do?”
“I’ve started your transformation. Don’t worry, no one will notice anything until Christmas Day.”
I realised that it was too late to back out.
“Having second thoughts?” asked Charlie.
I was but I wasn’t going to let on to her.
“Sort of looking out into the Abyss, the unknown.”
“I know. But I’ll be here with you.”
“You? Shouldn’t you be on this other mission you mentioned?”
“I did but I’ve wangled my way out of it. Gabby realised that you were a special case.”
"My bosses bosses boss, the Archangel Gabriel. He hates people calling him Gabby though."
“Do we have somewhere to stay tonight?” I asked changing the subject.
“Yes. I’ve sorted something out. Take my other hand and close your eyes.”
I took her other hand and a feeling of well being came over me.
“You can open them again,” said Charlie’s soft sexy voice.
I opened them and found that we were in a Hotel Room.
“Where are we?”
“At the Grand. We are freeloading.”
“Yes I know your family own the place. You are family so technically we aren’t committing a crime.”
I had to chuckle.
“Does anyone know we are here?”
“No. There is a notice on the door stating that the room is out of order. We won’t be disturbed.
“There is only one bed?”
“You are the most beautiful woman I have ever met.”
“Thank you for the nice compliment. That was why I started your change today. The first thing to go is your male sexual desire.”
I felt deflated.
“That does not mean we can’t have a cuddle,” she said smiling
“I think you could do with some TLC at this time.”
Charlie was right I needed someone to hold and she was the only person who could do it.
The next morning came around far too quickly. I watched the sky go from black to grey and then to blue. Charlie was still cuddled up to me. I felt that I was the luckiest person in the world. I tried to deny it but my ‘fancy’ for her was rapidly going beyond that towards love but I tried to stop those thoughts because I was certain that she was only going to be in my life for a short time.
The Hotel room would be our base for the next two days. Charlie’s ‘magic’ spirited us in and out without anyone noticing.
Christmas Eve arrived and everyone was making sure that our last day at the Pub would go down well. The place was packed from opening time. It seemed everyone in town wanted to have a drink on our last day thanks to all the publicity.
None of us had time to sit down all day so when midnight came and Joe locked the doors everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
We had one last drink together and once he’d given us our payments, P.45’s and references we headed out into the cold night. For me, one chapter of my life was about to end and another one start, or so I hoped.
I left the pub and walked towards my old home. I was supposed to meet Charlie there but I realised that someone was following me. I looked around for my ‘angel’ but she was nowhere to be seen.
Suddenly, I heard a commotion from behind me. I turned around to see a Police Car pull up alongside a man. Two officers got out the car and confronted the man. I sensed that this was my opportunity and rapidly exited the scene.
As we’d agreed, Charlie was waiting for me near my old home.
“Am I glad to see you.”
She took my hand grinning.
“Don’t worry, I dealt with the PI that was following you. Shall we go?”
She took my other hand and I closed my eyes.
When I opened them we were in the hotel room again.
“What happens now?” I asked.
“We go to bed and in the morning you will be the new you.”
“You can do that?”
“I can’t but HE can.”
Charlie gave me a cuddle and a kiss on the forehead and that was it.
When I woke the next morning I felt relaxed and … different. In a moment of panic, I looked for Charlie but she was nowhere to be seen. Then my hands went to my chest. I couldn’t feel any change. My ‘Man Boobs’ were still there.
Then I felt between my legs. There was nothing there but what a woman should find.
I started to cry. The tears that rolled down my cheeks were of happiness.
When I opened them, I saw Charlie smiling at me.
“Hello Beautiful,” she said softly
“Happy birthday and happy Christmas.”
I smiled back at her.
“I don’t have any boobs?”
“Breasts. Only men use ‘boobs’ in normal conversation.”
I grinned back at her
“Well breasts then. I don’t have any.”
“They will come over the next few weeks. If you want to produce milk, then they have to develop a little slower than normal.”
“Yes silly. You are a fertile young woman.”
The news that I could get pregnant stunned me. In all my dreams about being a woman I’d never even given that a thought.
I closed my eyes again and tried to savour the moment.
I was a woman and I could give birth. How cool was that?
A smile spread over my face as the reality started to sink in.
My moment of fun was spoilt by Charlie.
“I don’t mean to spoil your moment but we have to get going.”
“Oh, to see someone get their comeuppance.”
Despite me questioning she would not reveal where we were going. However, Charlie was a real sport as she helped me get dressed and put on some makeup.
“Well?” she asked as I paraded in front of a mirror.
“Not bad for day one of my new life,” I replied slightly cheekily.
“Shall we go?” I said as I took her arm.
“Yes lets,” she replied as she took my hands in hers.
When I opened my eyes again, we were standing on a hill overlooking my family home. I never likes the old pile apart from the time I discovered an old dressing up box in the attic. When my father found out, is was disposed of the next day and the contents of the attic sanitised. I remembered crying myself to sleep for a week after that.
“Why are we here?” I asked Charlie.
“Wait and see.”
I really hated that phrase. My Father used to use it all the time.
Before I could say anything, I saw some smoke coming from the house.
Charlie tried to suppress a cheeky grin.
“I think someone has burnt the Turkey.”
The house was well alight by the time the Emergency Services arrived.
It was soon obvious that not much would be left once the fire had been bought under control. After some commotion, a number of Police Cars arrived.
“What’s going on?”
“I’d expect that the Firemen have found a body,” said Charlie trying to suppress a grin.
“A body? Who’s?”
“Your’s. The old one I mean.”
“Solved the problem of Paul dissapearing don’t you think? Besides don’t you want them to be taken down a peg or two?”
“Your body was placed deliberatly so that it would be found. That is thre good news. The bad news is that your throat was cut. The knife was strategically placed underneath with your brother’s prints on it.”
“How many times have you wanted to kill him?”
“This is the next best thing. He will be convicted of your murder. Then your father and ex wil be exposed as dealers in stolen art.”
“I don’t understand?”
“It was all your Father’s idea that you and her should get hitched. She was already in business with her. The police will find a large number of stolen works of art in the ‘Safe room’.”
I stood there looking at the ruins of my former home. Gradually, it all started to make sense. Charlie was merely doing an ‘eye for an eye’. They’d made me suffer now it was their turm.”
“did anyone die down there?”
Charlie shook her head.
“Only your old self.”
“I think I understand.”
“Then it is time we left for our own lunch,” she said offering me her hands once more.
When I opened my eyes again, we were sitting in a car. I knew immediately where we were. We were outside a restaurant I’d visited many times when … well before.
Charlie took my hands in hers and looked me in the eyes.
“Before we go in, I have a little confession to make.”
Charlie took my hands in hers.
“Oh, this does not look good,” I commented.
“Shhhhhh… This is very hard for me.”
She swallowed hard and said,
“When I read your mind unfortunately I stumbled upon an emotion of yours that got me rather troubled. You were already in Love with me. This shocked me. In my past life on this planet, I was not a very nice person. I was a general in an army. I was told to wipe out a village because they didn’t want to give us all their food. I said no because they’d had a bad harvest and didn’t really have any food to spare. This didn’t go down with the real leaders of our campaign, the priests. They put me to death and then flattened the village. Not a person or animal survived. But my compassion made an impression on HIM and instead of going downstairs, I went upstairs.”
“I have spent most of the centuries since making amends for my misdeeds by helping people realise their dreams or potential. But I have never experienced real love either in your or my world. When I discussed this with Gabriel, he just laughed and said, ‘well then, don’t you think that it is time that you did?’”
“What I’m saying is that I’m not going anywhere for the foreseeable future unless it is with you, that is, if you will have me as your lover and wife?”
Then I ran out of words.
She gripped my hands a little tighter.
“I know that there is so much to talk about but that will have to wait. Our hosts are waiting.”
“Yes. Bernie and Jeremy. Two of my former clients. They don’t know what I did for them but they think of me as a friend. They are a couple.”
“Ok. Got it. I’m your bit of fluff then?”
Charlie looked at me sternly for half a second then she saw that I was joking.
She leaned over and kissed me long and hard. How could this lovely woman ever been a man.
That thought made me laugh.
I smiled back at her and said,
“I tried to imagine you as a man and failed miserably. Then I thought about myself.”
It was her turn to laugh.
We entered the pub hand in hand. Our ‘hosts’ were waiting for us at the bar.
“Hi guys! This is Fiona, my Fiancée.”
I grinned back at her and our hosts. She’d just given me the perfect Christmas present.
“Well hello Fiona and happy christmas.” they said in unison as they stepped forward and gave us both a hug.
After all the trouble I’d been in these past few years, I could not even begin to imagine a more perfect pair of presents, my new body and being with someone I was madly in love with.
I looked upwards and said a small prayer to HIM, (and Gabby).
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