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UZUMMA: WAITING


“How is Uzondu?” Uzumma asked.
“My husband is fine, my sister,” Ugboaku replied. She had laid emphasis on ‘my husband’ so both of them started laughing.
“You know, I still can’t believe my good fortune in marrying such a wonderful man. He’s everything I ever wanted and more, my sister,” she continued, still smiling. "He's so caring and the best part is that he lets me be myself, without ever trying to change me or put restrictions on my behaviour. As a result of that, I always want to do things that I know will please him. Nne, I thank my chi everyday for him o!"
Uzumma nodded. "I understand what you mean, my dear. Agunwa completes me in a way I could never explain. He's a good man, that's the only way to put it.”
Her eyes turned dreamy. “When he looks at me with those eyes that seem to see into my soul and reassures me, in that calm manner of his, that all would be well, my worries about anything fade. Then, the way he holds me when we're alone..."
As her friend's voice trailed off, Ugboaku clapped her hands twice and burst into laughter.
"Uzumma!"
"O gini? You know that is true, my sister," she responded, laughing too. "Agu m speaks some sort of language to my body and knows how to give me joy."
Ugboaku laughed even harder. "Joy... that's the only word for that o."


When they finally stopped laughing, Ugboaku said, "Nne, I'm pregnant o."
"Ezi okwu! You are? That's so great, nne," Uzumma responded, hugging her friend.
She nodded happily. "Yes, it is. I didn't think that I wanted a baby immediately but I'm so excited. I haven't seen my monthly flow since I got married and I've been feeling tired lately. This morning, my mother-in-law asked Nnedimma, the midwife, to examine me because I've been very nauseous for three consecutive days.”
Her excitement was palpable, as she grabbed Uzumma’s hands. “She confirmed it, nne. I'm having a baby! You should have seen Uzondu. He was ecstatic. My mother-in-law wants me to put my feet up and do absolutely nothing and I love all the attention."
Uzumma smiled widely and squeezed her friend’s hands. "I'm thrilled for you, my sister. I feel your joy...."
"How can you feel her joy, Uzumma?”
They had been sitting in front of the hut Uzumma shared with her husband and hadn't heard Obiageli approach. They looked up, to find her sneering.
"Other women feel joy when they get pregnant while you only feel joy when you share a bed with my brother. Allow yourself get pregnant, Uzumma.”
She clapped her hand thrice. “Stop eating up your babies every month, ogbanje."
Mouth gaping, Uzumma was too shocked to respond. It was now clear to her, that Obiageli had been eavesdropping on their entire conversation.
"Ogbanje? What exactly do you mean, Obiageli? Is Uzumma our chi who gives children? What gives you the right to speak to her in that manner? How dare you hurt another woman so badly?"
She held up a hand in Ugboaku’s direction. "Stay out of this, Ugboaku. You are not Uzumma. Look at her. She's silent and that's only because she knows I'm right.”
Turning to Uzumma, her eyes narrowed. “Do you not know the meaning of those mounds on your chest? Why would you prevent them from suckling a baby? Give my brother a child, Uzumma. Allow him become a father, like his age mates."
She walked off in a huff and Uzumma started crying softly.
Ugboaku turned to her and spoke impatiently. "Nne, stop that right now. You are not an ogbanje. You cannot be possessed by some evil spirits.”
She snapped her fingers. “Tufiakwa! God forbid! I have known you since we were little and I know, for sure, that you are no ogbanje. No one as good or as kind as you are can eat their own babies. You will get pregnant at the right time, my dear."
She thrust both arms out. "When will the time be right, Ugboaku? When will it be? This is the ninth month of my marriage and there's nothing to show for it. Apart from that time of the month when the dreaded flow pays me a visit, I lie in my husband arms every night and sometimes, during the day too. No matter how pleasurable that is, each time, I pray fervently that we finally made a baby."
Uzumma cried harder. "Look at you, my sister. You have been married for a little under two months and, by your own confession; have never seen your monthly flow in your husband's house. Yet, mine shows up regularly, every month. I am no ogbanje. So, what else could be the reason for this childlessness, Ugboaku? What lesson does our chi want me to learn?"
Ugboaku crouched beside her and dried her tears, with her palms. "Cry no more, my best friend. You know that we may never understand our chi but we can pray all the time for decisions that favour us to be made. I cannot pretend to know what you are going through; but, I ask you to hold onYou will have children, my dear. You will."

Uzumma gradually stopped sobbing, but she was still sad when Agunwa returned from one of his farms a short while later, to have lunch with his wife. Ugboaku was in their home and her visits were always fun for Uzumma, so he didn't understand why his wife didn’t look happy and was strangely silent, as her friend chattered.
"Asa m, why do you look so gloomy? O gini?"
"Ndewo, Agunwa. We didn't hear you come in," Ugboaku said in greeting and stood. "I'll be leaving now, Uzumma. Take care, okay. I'll come and see ..." Her voice trailed off as Uzumma burst into tears again.
Alarmed, Agunwa crouched in front of his wife, asking her what the matter was. When Uzumma cried harder, her husband turned to Ugboaku and asked, "O gini? What is the matter with my wife, Ugboaku? Why is she crying this way?"
"Your sister called her an ogbanje. She said the reason Uzumma has not been able to get pregnant is because she eats up her babies," she responded angrily. She was very upset for her friend and angry with Obiageli for casting a shadow on their jubilation. "I will leave now. Nne, stop crying, biko. I will see you tomorrow."

Immediately Ugboaku left, Agunwa turned to his wife and consoled her. She gradually stopped crying after he had led her to their hut and urged her to lie down.
Agu m, where are you going to?” His lips were pursed and she knew he was enraged. He ignored her and left the hut in a hurry. Very soon, Uzumma heard him yelling for his sister.
"Obiageli! Obiageli! Come out this instant!" he ordered, as he got closer to his mother’s hut.
"Agunwa, why are you yelling my name like that, eh? Obiageli yelled back as she slowly came out of her mother's hut.
He matched to where she stood at the entrance of the hut. "Obiageli, if you ever raise your voice at me again, I will...."
"What will you do, Agunwa?" she taunted, standing on her toes, her chest almost brushing against his. "You come here, screaming my name like a raging bull, all because of that man you married and called a wife."
"Is it not enough that you have insulted my wife by calling her an ogbanje? You add to that by calling her a man and to my face too. Obiageli, you dare to extend your insolence to me?" Agunwa yelled in her face. He raised his hand to slap her but his father's voice stopped him.
"Put your hand down, my son. No matter the level of provocation, never hit a woman," Emenike said calmly, from the door of his hut. He waited till Agunwa had lowered his hand and walked away from his sister, before coming closer. "What is the matter, Agunwa? What has got you this enraged with your sister?"
"Papa, is it not..."
He raised a hand and spoke loudly. "Shut up, Obiageli! Your name is not Agunwa. Therefore, you should have known that I wasn't asking you to tell me the story.”
When he turned to Agunwa, his voice gentled. “My son, you may speak. Please, forgive your rude sister."
Agunwa respected his father a whole lot, so he forced himself to speak calmly, "I came home now to meet Uzumma in tears. On inquiry, her friend, Ugboaku revealed that Obiageli called my wife an ogbanje because she has no child yet. When I came here now to confront her, she compounded the issue by calling my beautiful wife a man."
Obiageli turned up her lips in disgust and rolled her eyes dramatically. "I agree with you. She’s very beautiful, indeed. However, will you eat her beauty or would that get you a child? If she were not a man, then..."
Emenike snapped a finger loudly, in her direction. "Shut up, Obiageli! Mechie onu gi! This is the reason you still tie two wrappers, just like a girl. Which man would marry you with that tongue of yours? Can you not see the way your brother's wife speaks to everyone? She is polite all the time, regardless of whom she's talking to. That's how a woman should speak. You do not respect the fact that I, your father, am here. Ajo nwa. Bad child."
He waved a finger at her. “Not a single man has come to ask me for your hand in marriage. Do we conclude then that the reason you are not yet married is because you have a spirit husband who would be jealous of any male attention? You should pray to marry a patient man who wouldn’t beat you whenever you open your mouth.”
By now, other members of his family had gathered. He turned to his second wife, Ojiugo and said, "Please, call Uzumma for me."

When Uzumma came, her father-in-law asked her to recount what had transpired between her and Obiageli.
"I was chatting with Ugboaku when Obiageli suddenly interrupted us. She called me an ogbanje and said that I ate my babies every month." There was a collective gasp at that. "I am not an ogbanje, Nna anyi. I am not." When she started crying, Agunwa went to her, put his arms around her shoulders and spoke in low tones to her.
Looking at her, Emenike shook his head from side to side. "I'm sorry, my daughter. I truly am, nwanyi oma. My daughter had no right to accuse you of being possessed by evil spirits and she had no reason to say that you eat your babies. I apologize for her show of shame. Obiageli, you will apologize to your brother's wife now."
"What exactly should Obiageli apologize for, nna anyi? She has only spoken the truth. If Uzumma is innocent, then she should be making babies. What sort of woman would not want to bring joy to her husband with the birth of, at least, one child?"
Uzumma looked at her mother-in-law incredulously. She was shocked at what she had just heard.
"Mama! How can you say such a thing?" Agunwa asked. He was visibly livid.
Emenike shook his head and looked from Obiageli, who had a mocking smile on her face, to Nwanyimma, who had a defiant look on hers.
He nodded slowly. "Aha! The drama unfolds. Our people say that a goat learns how to chew curd by watching its mother. Nwanyimma, I should have known that Obiageli’s bold insolence was spurred on by your support and that’s such a shame.”
He shook his head again. “Have you forgotten that for nine years after Agunwa was born, you did not have another child? For nine years, I was patient with you and no one ever accused you of eating your children.” He raised his right index finger. “Not a single person.”
He shook that finger at his first wife now. “I offered a lot of sacrifices to our chi and my mother even took you, on several occasions, to see Nwokike, the great herbalist of Nkwonta. You finally had Obiageli and we all rejoiced. After her, you had no other child for me and I never spoke a bad word to you about it.”
He extended a palm in Uzumma’s direction. “Your daughter-in-law has been in this family for only nine months and already, you and your daughter have labeled her an ogbanje. You have not been as patient to her, as my mother was with you. Umuchi boasts of a renowned seer, as well as two great herbalists.”
He spread his arms and then shrugged. “Yet, you have not taken Uzumma anywhere, to find out why she hasn’t become pregnant. Instead, you and your daughter have decided to make her miserable.”
Nwanyimma opened her mouth to speak but the hand he held up silenced her. “Shame on you, woman. Shame on you."
He turned angry eyes on Obiageli and said, "Now, young woman apologize to your sister-in-law immediately."
Obiageli knew better than to disobey her father. It took a lot to get him angry but once he got that way, it was better to stay out of his way. "I'm sorry," she mumbled to Uzumma. She was careful not to let her face betray her emotions, but it was clear to Uzumma that her sister-in-law didn't mean the forced apology.

"Omalicha anyi, have you had lunch?" Ojiugo asked Uzumma, as soon as Emenike walked away in anger.
"No, Nne. I haven't."
Kindly, Ojiugo put her arms on Uzumma’s shoulders and looked into her face. "Come with me, my dear. I made oha soup with dried fish and smoked anu nchi. I know how much you love it. Come and get fed, nwa m."
"Thank you, Nne. I’d love to.” She twisted to her side to look at her husband. “What about you, Agu m? Please, come and join me. You must be starved."
He shook his head slowly, before responding, "Asa m, go on with Nne. I'm not hungry anymore and I need to speak with Papa." He had always called Ojiugo 'Nne' and his mother 'Mama'.
As Uzumma left with Ojiugo, they overheard Nwanyimma say, "Follow your enemies, i nugo. For all you know, they are the reason you have been barren." She then hissed, turned and pulled Obiageli’s arm. Together, they walked into her hut.
Uzumma was shocked at her mother-in-law's attitude. She knew that Nwanyimma had been disappointed about their childless marriage but she never would have guessed that her Agunwa's mother held her responsible for that. It was almost amusing to hear her insinuating that Ojiugo had placed some sort of spell on her preventing her from being pregnant. Ojiugo had extended the love she had for Agunwa to her and had been nothing but kind to her since she married Agunwa; so, that accusation was almost laughable to her.
Ojiugo shook her head gently, put her right hand in Uzumma's left and led her to her hut.

One night, three months later, Nwanyimma called Agunwa to her hut. She told him that they needed to talk and wasted no time making small talk with him.
"My son, you have to marry another wife.” Agunwa’s eyes narrowed, as he stared at her and she nodded once.
“What you need is a woman who would bear you strong sons. You are my only son and you need someone to pass your name on to. You are a wealthy man too. So, it's not out of place for you to have more than one wife.”
He shook his head and looked away from her. She touched his back gently and lowered her voice. “Yes, my son…It is even encouraged so that you'll be sure that you have lots of children to take care of all you own after you are gone to meet our ancestors."
Agunwa knew that his mother no longer had the amount of love she once did for his wife and that made him very sad. He was very pained that after a year of marriage, he and his wife had no children still. However, he was willing to wait for as long as it took, to have children with Uzumma and he thought of a second wife had never crossed his mind. He was surprised that his mother had thought of that.
He turned to his right to stare at her. The dim light emitted by the crude lamp in Nwanyimma’s hut couldn’t hide the look of determination on her face. "Mama, how can you even make this sort of suggestion? We have been married for only a year and already, you have written my wife off as a barren woman. The day I watched her dance, I thought to myself that I had to make Uzumma my wife. I was attracted to her looks but when I got to know her, I became even more enchanted with her. Mama, I love my wife. She is a very good woman and she understands me perfectly."
She shook her head and waved her right hand in the air. "Stop talking like a weakling, Agunwa. Your talk about love amuses me. Are you saying that the thought of making babies with her never crossed your mind? Would love, only, give you children, Agunwa? You are enchanted with her, alright. Uzumma must have bewitched you. That can be the only explanation for why you won’t cast away a woman who is of no use to you as a wife."
"Mama, I don't ever want to hear you call Uzumma a useless wife.” He pulled his right ear. “I nu ihe m na-ekwu?”
He stood and paced around the hut for a while, before stopping to stand in front of his mother. “Have you taken a look at my goat-rearing business since she started handling it? It's expanded so much. Have you not noticed that despite our lack of children that we are very happy? You talk about a second wife. Do you think I want to have to separate fights and mediate over quarrels between women? You and Nne may have a truce of sorts now but I remember how much drama Papa had to contend with, when I was much younger. I love my life just the way it is. All my wife and I lack is a child and when our chi decides that we should be blessed with one, we will be."
 Nwanyimma stood and placed her left hand on her waist. She wagged a finger furiously at him. "Agunwa, how dare you warn me? Have you lost your senses? I will call your wife whatever I choose to. I am your mother, after all. When she bears you children or allows you marry another woman, I would love her again.”
She folded both arms on her chest and looked away from her son. “You talk about your goat-rearing business. Of course, it ought to have grown in her hands because she has no children of her own. She nurtures them with the love and care she would have given her own children. So, I expect them to grow like children would."
Agunwa walked to the door and spoke slowly, "Uzumma had no knowledge about rearing goats before she married me but, she was willing to learn. She begged me to cede the control of that arm of my business to her because she needed to be busy and also because she wanted to make a positive impact. She's done a lot better than I had thought she would and in just six months too. But, you can't even applaud that. How dare you compare rearing goats to the love of a mother for her child?”
He shook his head sadly. “Mama, you are impossible, really. Now, I understand why Papa married a second wife." He walked out of the hut.
Nwanyimma raised her voice so her son could hear her and said, "You are just like your father. This is the wrong time to show me just how stubborn you are. I have told you what you must do for us all to have peace in this family, Agunwa. Marry another wife, Agunwa! Give me grandchildren, Agunwa!"

Months later, Uzumma was visiting her parents and had planned to spend two nights with them. She had been chatting with her mother and having a good laugh.
"How is your husband's mother, nwa m? I hope she's still not making you unhappy," Adaugo asked suddenly.
Sitting on her mother’s bamboo bed, Uzumma kept silent for a few seconds before sighing deeply. “Mama, she's still so difficult to please o!”
She shook her head a few times. “Nothing I do these days makes her happy. When I cook for my husband, she asks me what right I have to serve her son food. She says that I'm not yet a wife. So, she brings food over to our hut everyday for him but, Agunwa rejects them all. We all used to cook and eat together when I was new to the family but, all that's changed now. She says she cannot eat my food again because I just might bewitch her like I did her son.”
Placing her right elbow on her thigh, she put her palm under her jaw. “Mama, ike agwu go m, I am tired. She was so caring when I first met her. All the love she had for me is gone now."
Adaugo sighed deeply and spoke, "Nne, I'm so sorry for the pain you must feel. Your mother-in-law is not a bad woman."
As Uzumma started to interrupt, Adaugo raised a hand to halt her and said, "Hold on my daughter, let me finish. Nwanyimma may be ten years older than I am, but I know her very well. Nne, she’s not a wicked woman. If she were, she would not have needed an excuse to make you miserable. She's just scared and fear makes people do things they are not proud of later.”
Her eyes widened. “You know it took her such a long time to have Obiageli. I bet she’s afraid that history is repeating itself. Your husband is her only son, so I understand how she feels about him not having children yet. But, she's handling it wrongly. I will speak to her like a woman and let her see that you are not alone in feeling the pain of her actions.”
She shrugged. “Maybe, if she realizes that she's hurting her son too, she would see some sense in letting you and your husband alone till our chi decides to bless you.”
 Uzumma sat up and shook her head vigorously. "No, Mama. Don't speak to her, biko. She will use that against me.”
“My daughter, then we should do something about this! I am very worried about you because I see how much this is eating you up. We can visit a herbalist to give you medicines that may help you conceive. Agbaenu is reputed to be a good herbalist. Mama Chinelo’s daughter-in law visited him only twice before she conceived."
Uzumma sighed wearily, before responding, “Mama, we’ve had this conversation countless times before. You know Agunwa’s position about visiting a herbalist for my condition. No matter how I feel about that, he prefers that we wait on our Chi. While he knows that some people have achieved positive results by visiting herbalists, he also knows that there are lots of people who after years of drinking one concoction or the other, are still without children. So, he firmly believes that whoever our Chi decides to bless with a child, would have one.” She shook her head slowly. “I cannot go against my husband’s wishes, Mama, so my hands are tied."
They were silent for a while till Adaugo asked, "Have you gone to see your friend, Ugboaku?"
Uzumma lit up and excitedly said, "Yes, Mama. I've gone several times to see her. I can't believe she's a mother now. Her daughter is so beautiful. Her husband's such a doting father too. The baby's only two weeks old yet he has these elaborate plans for her. It's almost comical but I love seeing that.”
Her face fell. “I can't wait to see my husband hold his child in his arms, Mama. He's such a good man."
Adaugo rubbed her back gently. "He will, my daughter, he will. Never stop believing, okay?” Leaning forward to peer in her face, she asked, “Have you seen Mama Nnukwu? She was very excited when I told her that you will spend some days with us."
Cheering up immediately, she beamed. "Yes, I have. Hers was the first hut I visited when I came here. She saved me some melon cakes from the batch she made yesterday. I drank garri with one immediately and I’ll take the rest home.”
She turned to her mother and laughed. “Agunwa loves Mama Nnukwu’s melon cakes. He always says that she makes the best in Umuchi."
Her mother smiled widely. "You've always shared a special bond with her and that's great. Come help me in the kitchen. Your father would soon be back from the farm so I have to cook for him now."
Uzumma stood to change her wrapper to one she could use and work. As she undressed, her mother looked her over and asked, "My daughter, you look different. You're not fatter, but…” Her eyes narrowed. “…your breasts are definitely fuller. There are prominent veins on them too.” Her eyes went to Uzumma’s belly, before looking to at her face. “Have you seen your monthly flow?"
Uzumma sat down on her mother's bed immediately. Her heart beat faster and her eyes widened. Thinking, she didn’t speak for a while. "Mama, now that you ask, I'm sure I should have seen it about two weeks ago,” she finally said. “I'm so used to the regularity of the flow and have come to dread it. So, I try not to think about it. Maybe that’s why it didn't register that it's been late in coming.”
Almost desperately, she clasped Adaugo’s hands. “Is it possible that, after all this while, I am finally, Mama?"
She sighed and then shook her head slowly. "I don't know for sure my daughter. I hope you are. I pray you are, nwa m.
She stood and tugged at Uzumma’s hand. “Come, let's go and make lunch. We will visit Nnedimma, this evening."
Still sitting, Uzumma shook her head slowly. "I have neither been tired at all nor have I been nauseous. Do you think that without those two symptoms, I could be pregnant?"
Her mother smiled. "Pregnancy for every woman is different. I hardly felt nauseous when I was pregnant with you and I was a bundle of energy. But, with my other children, I was still very strong but, could hardly keep my food down. In your case, we will find out this evening, my daughter."
She pulled her daughter up and together, they left the hut.

Agunwa cut out a thin strip from the chewing stick on the table in front of him. With it, he picked his teeth to remove a tiny piece of anu mgbada lodged between two teeth. He had just finished a sumptuous meal of fufu and okazi soup. Uzumma was a great cook, so he always enjoyed her meals.
He had missed her very much because in the eighteen months they had been married, last night was the only she had been away from him. She had planned to stay two nights but she had obviously missed him too because she had come home a full day early. He had been surprised to see her at home when he returned from the farm in the evening.
He smiled when she finished clearing up the used plates and came to sit beside him on the wooden bench. I’m glad she’s home. This is where she belongs.
They sat in companionable silence and watched the fire in front of them. After a while, she leaned into him and he put his right arm around her shoulder.
"I'm pregnant."
He was silent for a few seconds, because he wasn't sure he had heard her accurately.
Soon, he dropped his arm and turned fully to look at her. "What did you say, Asa m? Are you sure?”
Looking into his eyes, she said, "Agu m, I'm pregnant. The midwife confirmed it yesterday evening. I couldn't wait to tell you. So, I decided to cut my visit short." She started to cry.
"Why are you crying, omalicha m? It is what we have been waiting for," he said, as he pulled her into a hug. "I'm so excited. Are you not?"
She hugged him back and held on tightly. "I am, Agu m. These are tears of joy."

TO BE CONTINUED

To read other parts of the story, please go to



Comments

  1. Aww finally! This is surely an age old problem....getting preggies after marriage!! God help our society....keep it coming nne!

    PS. New name for ma boo.....Agunwa!

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  2. Anonymous4:08 pm

    Nne, idi too much!!! Pls pls pls don't bury this rare talent. Keep using it and U'l definitely go places. Mark my words!!

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  3. nwunye arinze5:15 pm

    Yipee finally!......what else do u want to tell us now.....trust u to use oha soup in ur story...nice one!

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  4. Totally enjoyed it! Looking forward to the next one.

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  5. Anonymous7:47 pm

    Very interesting and compelling story! Let's have d concluding part.

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  6. colettooo2:40 am

    Now the story is getting interesting! Kamu nwetakwa Obiageli anwa eh! Mgbeke! Lolzzzzzzzzz

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  7. Ng; Had a wild time laughing @ your boo's new name.

    Anon 16:08; Daalu rinne. From your mouth to God's ears :)

    Nwunye Arinze; You know me naa... Oha soup is the way to go ;)

    Fifi; Thanks, girl!

    Anon 19:47; Thank you :)

    Coco; Oh my! Mgbeke???!!! Lol!!!!!

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  8. Brick's Momma5:50 pm

    mother inlaws and their impatience, gosh! i'm glad the tension is over for Uzumma and Agunwa
    well done Olaedo. i love this traditional setting...i do,i do

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  9. Brick's Momma; Thanks, sweetie. I'm glad they got a break too ;);)

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  10. Oh, beautiful, beautiful! I couldn't stop reading!

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  11. Samuel; Thanks a lot! I'm glad you enjoyed it :)

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