DISCLAIMER: The Facts of Life and its characters are the property of Columbia Pictures Television and Sony Pictures Television, no infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Common Ground: Chapter 11. Quotes in italics are direct quotes from the Facts of Life Series, Season 3, Episode 4, Friend in Need.
THANKS: To Stacey for the Beta, assistance in story and character development, encouragement, and meticulous attention to detail.
MEDIA LINK: http://www.youtube.com/user/FactsOfLifeMinutes#p/p
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To FOLfan[at]ymail.com
11: Friend in Need
Tootie's eyes widened as she and Blair approached their bedroom. It wasn't uncommon to hear Jo and Blair yelling at one another at the top of their lungs, but Tootie was surprised to hear Jo venting her anger toward Natalie. Their roommates were so engrossed in verbal combat that they didn't even notice when Blair and Tootie entered the room.
"It's not fair, Jo. Someone has to do something."
"I told ya to keep your nose out of my business and I meant it. I don't want you doing anything about it and you'd better not go blabbing to Blair, either."
Blair cleared her throat as noisily as she was capable, which wasn't loud enough to gain their attention, so Tootie shouted.
"It's a little too late to keep whatever you're arguing about from Blair because we could hear you barking at one another all the way up the stairs."
Jo glared at Natalie as her face flushed.
"Keep your mouth shut . . . or else."
Blair's curiosity was rivaled only by Tootie's, but Blair didn't dare press Jo for details. If Jo was trying to keep something from Blair, then the only way Blair would get the truth would be to worm it out of Natalie. Blair smiled at Natalie, who groaned inwardly at the confident expression on Blair's face. Natalie was doomed. Jo was going to kill her because there was no way she would be able to resist Blair once the persistent blonde began pouting, cajoling, and if needed flirting, until Natalie caved in and revealed Jo's secret.
"Tootie and I aren't interested in your secrets, Jo. Are we, Tootie?"
Tootie looked at Blair in disbelief.
"I'm interested. I'm dying to know what's going on."
Blair rolled her eyes and left the room, leaving Natalie and Jo to field the barrage of questions thrown at them by Tootie. Natalie tried to convince Tootie that there wasn't a secret while Jo scowled and grunted, revealing nothing. As expected, as soon as Blair had a few seconds alone with Natalie, she teased enough information from her friend to sleuth out Jo's secret on her own.
Blair had warned Jo repeatedly about Natalie's habit of burrowing through trash cans in her never-ending search for the next Eastlander headline, so she thought it served Jo right that Natalie had discovered Jo's secret because of something Jo had carelessly tossed into the waste paper basket. Blair looked into the basket, but didn't see anything other than Jo's discarded journalism assignment. Thinking she must have misread Natalie's signals, Blair opened the paper and was shocked to see that Mr. Gideon had given Jo a D on the assignment. Blair was still digesting the information when Jo entered the room.
"Am I gonna have to move out of here in order to get any privacy?"
Blair turned to Jo, confusion written on her face.
"I don't understand this."
"I'm not as smart as you thought I was, okay? I'm never gonna get a job as a reporter at a big city newspaper like Nat. Are you happy now?"
"Jo, your paper was very good. I read it, remember?"
"Well, that just shows how much you know."
Blair didn't like seeing Jo so defeated. It wasn't like Jo to give up without a fight.
"This is unethical, Jo. Mr. Gideon can't give you a low score just because he doesn't like you."
"What if it's the score I deserve? Did you think of that? Gideon is the only one of our teachers who actually worked as a reporter. If anyone should know what it takes to be a successful journalist, it's him. The other teachers around here are too easily impressed. They don't know anything about the real world."
Blair Warner seldom dropped her dumb blonde act, but when the need arose, she knew exactly which buttons to push in order to get the result wanted.
"Teachers like Miss Gallagher? She told her friend Brad that you were the most gifted writer she had ever taught. Does that make her stupid?"
Jo's hands clenched at her sides.
"I didn't say that. Maybe I'm just better than the mediocre students she usually teaches."
"Students like me? Students like Natalie? You always score better on Miss Gallagher's assignments than we do, Jo, and don't try to pretend that Miss Gallagher would give you a better grade because you're her friend. We both know she would never do that."
"Gail's class is different."
"It's not that different, Jo. I got an A on Mr. Gideon's assignment and I didn't even type it. I was only half awake when I wrote it."
Blair's disclosure sparked Jo's temper further, but not because she was jealous of Blair's grade or more outraged about her own, she was incensed that Mr. Gideon might expect something from Blair in return for his generous score.
"You got an A?"
Blair went to her books and pulled the crumpled paper from her notebook. She handed the paper to Jo, whose mouth fell open in dismay that her girlfriend would have the nerve to turn in such a sloppy report.
"This is terrible."
Blair nodded enthusiastically and smiled as if Jo had given her a compliment.
"That's what I've been trying to tell you. There's no way that I deserved an A on that paper. When I got it back I figured that Mr. Gideon must have been too busy to actually read the papers and just made up grades based on past performance. Now that I've seen your score, I'm certain he's playing favorites. We'll just go to Mrs. Garrett and force Mr. Gideon to change your D to an A."
Jo eyes narrowed as she continued to read over Blair's paper.
"I don't give a damn about that D. I want to know what that bastard expects to gain by giving you an A for this . . . this . . . mess."
Blair yanked her report from Jo's hands.
"It's not THAT bad."
"It stinks and that A on top of it makes it smell even worse. I'm telling you, Blair, if he so much as looks at you with a gleam in his eye, I'm gonna knock his stupid head off."
Blair began to pace back and forth. The conversation wasn't going the way she wanted.
"Jo, you know I'm never going to do anything with Mr. Gideon. I can't think of anything more disgusting. He can give me all the A's in the world and it won't get him anywhere. If you hit a teacher, you'll be expelled and it won't matter why you did it."
Jo picked up her old report and flung it across the room.
"I'll be kicked out when I lose my scholarship anyway."
"This isn't the first D I've gotten in his class, Blair. My scholarship is conditional. If my grade average falls, even one quarter, I'll lose the scholarship."
"That's all the more reason to tell Mrs. Garrett, or Mr. Parker."
"No, Blair. You have to let me handle this my own way. Promise me that you won't say anything to Mrs. G. or Mr. Parker."
Blair started to argue, but then recognized the loophole in Jo's argument and readily agreed.
"I promise not to say anything about your journalism grades to Mrs. Garrett or Mr. Parker."
"I promised, Jo. I keep my promises."
Jo was uneasy. Blair hadn't put up as much of a fight as usual, but Jo couldn't continue to argue with Blair after her girlfriend had agreed to allow Jo to handle things as she saw fit.
"Well, that's good. Now I have to go downstairs and knock Natalie around a little."
Blair extended her lower lip to pout.
"Natalie didn't tell me anything."
"Oh really? Do you regularly dig through my trash bin?"
"I will if you keep throwing personal items where Natalie can find them."
Jo nodded remorsefully.
"I've learned my lesson."
"Jo, I'll keep my promise, but I won't let Mr. Gideon get you thrown out of Eastland."
"Don't worry, Blair. I'll figure out a way to fix Gideon."
The following day, Blair had already made plans to walk over to Miss Gallagher's house while Jo was interviewing for a job at the local motorcycle dealership. Blair had initially reacted to Jo's decision to apply for the sales opening with angry stares. Blair was jealous of anything or anyone who interfered with the amount of time she could spend with Jo. Jo was already spending several hours during the week working at the Eastland library and once Jo got the job at the dealership, the couple would no longer be able to visit Cooper's Rock on Saturday afternoons. Blair had no doubt that Jo would get the job; she couldn't imagine anyone turning down her brilliant girlfriend.
Blair had argued vehemently that if Jo enjoyed their intimate Saturday picnics as much as she did, Jo would never consider applying for a Saturday job. It wasn't until Mrs. Garrett suspected that Jo's interest in getting another job was the cause for the additional friction between the two girls that she took Blair aside for a private conversation.
Edna Garrett didn't have any substantial evidence of a romantic relationship between the girls, but she trusted her intuition and she knew more than anyone how much attention Blair demanded from the people she loved. Mrs. Garrett understood that no one could make up for the neglect Blair felt from her parents, but hoped that Blair would outgrow her childish perspective enough to realize that the decisions made by those she cared for couldn't always revolve around her. Mrs. Garrett needed only to inquire if Blair knew of a reason why Jo might need extra money to redirect Blair's interpretation of Jo's motivations. Once Blair began considering the possibility that Jo might need money for more than movies and popcorn, she stopped arguing with Jo and began trying to coax Jo into confiding in her.
At first, Jo fell into old habits and withheld the truth from Blair, embarrassed to tell her wealthy girlfriend that her mother had once again broken her arm and needed Jo's help financially. Jo was not only embarrassed about her mother's financial situation, she felt awkward revealing that her mother was injured. Previously, Blair hadn't asked Jo any prying questions about her mother, but Jo felt that Blair would be certain to wonder if Rose's latest injuries were due to something more sinister than clumsiness.
Once Jo finally began talking to her girlfriend, she was surprised to find herself relieved to be able to express her fears about her mother's well-being. Rose didn't get paid when she didn't work and she had been out of work for a full week after breaking her arm. The fact that her mother hadn't asked Jo's uncle, Sal, for help gave Jo more reason to be concerned. If Rose was keeping her injury from Sal, it was probably because she didn't want her protective brother-in-law to know how she had been hurt.
When she found out why Jo needed another job, Blair was mortified by her selfish behavior. She was overcome with guilt for having assumed the worst about Jo instead of trusting the strength of Jo's feelings for her. After spending hours listening to Jo talk about which bills could be postponed and what things her mother would have to give up until she could catch up on her regular payments, Blair began to experience some of the emotional growth Mrs. Garrett had hoped the spoiled young woman would develop.
Edna Garrett could see how important a second job was to Jo by how nervous the fidgety brunette was on the day of her interview.
"Jo, you've been mopping the same spot for fifteen minutes. I don't think I've ever seen it cleaner."
Mrs. Garrett was sympathetic towards Jo, but she was afraid that Jo's anxious demeanor would work against her during the job interview. The motherly woman smiled indulgently as Blair attempted to distract Jo. Blair wasn't anxious about Jo's chances and was somewhat confused by Jo's behavior. In Blair's opinion, Jo knew everything there was to know about motorcycles so the dealership owner would have to be an idiot not to hire Jo.
"I just had another one of my brilliant ideas. If you move your feet while you're moving that mop, we just might get out of here before noon."
Jo was too on edge to fully succumb to Blair's good humored teasing, but she played along.
"Could you tell Cinderella here to go stick her head in a pumpkin?"
Tootie, like all of Jo's roommates, had suffered Jo's apprehension for as long as she could bear it.
"Hey, Jo, relax."
"I'm relaxed. I'm relaxed. I'm not relaxed."
Mrs. Garret tried again to soothe Jo's nerves.
"You're just a little tense, uh, excited about your job interview."
Tootie couldn't understand why anyone would want to tie herself down to a job if she could avoid it.
"Are you sure you want to give up your Saturday afternoons to go to work in a motorcycle shop?"
Jo briefly glanced at Blair before answering. Giving up her Saturday afternoons with Blair was more of a sacrifice than Jo wanted anyone to know, even Blair.
"I wouldn't be going to work. I'd be going to heaven. Imagine me in a room full of bikes, running my hands over them, watching them gleam in the sun, trying them on for size."
"I feel the same way when I spend the day at Tiffany's."
Jo rolled her eyes at Blair's response. It was just like Blair to help Jo put a positive spin on why she needed the job. If anyone could make their friends believe that Jo would enjoy working on Saturdays as much as Blair enjoyed spending the day shopping, it was Blair Warner.
Blair was hiding it better than Jo, but she was also suffering from a small case of nerves. Blair's mother had promised to call her daughter as soon as she awoke from the face-lift she had scheduled for that morning. Blair was more excited to hear from her mother than nervous; she doubted her mother would do anything too drastic. Monica was already the most beautiful woman Blair knew.
Like Blair, Natalie was excited about Monica's face-lift. Tootie was curious, asking more questions than Blair could answer while Jo was characteristically stupefied at the lengths the rich and beautiful went to in order to become more rich and more beautiful.
"It's all baloney. They don't call it PLASTIC surgery for nothin'. You're old. You're ugly. You live with it. You are what you are and that's good enough."
Blair added Jo's comment to the list of classic 'Jo-isms' she'd begun collecting. Until she'd met Jo, no one had ever looked beyond Blair's surface characteristics and she loved that Jo's attraction to her was more than skin deep.
"If I'm interrupting something, I hope it's a party."
Blair and her cousin Geri, who was visiting Blair while performing her comedy act at a nearby Elk's Club, were thrilled when Blair's mother entered the room.
"Mother, what are you doing here?!"
"Hi girls, you look wonderful."
Jo tried to fade into the wall as she watched Monica hug Blair and Geri. Jo hadn't seen Blair's mother since the night Monica had interrupted their romantic dinner at the end of the previous school year and she wasn't sure what type of reception she would receive. She leaned over to Natalie and whispered.
"Isn't she supposed to look like the mummy?"
Natalie nodded, but was more interested in moving closer to Monica than in hanging back with Jo. Mrs. Garrett was also surprised to see Blair's mother. Since meeting Monica two years earlier on Parents Day, Edna had only seen the jet-setting woman once, when she and Blair paid a brief visit to Eastland during the summer.
"Hey, Mrs. Warner, what a surprise."
Edna broke the ice by bringing up Monica's face-lift.
"Wow, talk about a fast healer."
"Oh, I decided to postpone my face-lift."
The tight knot in Jo's stomach loosened as she realized that Monica's way of dealing with her daughter's girlfriend was going to be to pretend that Jo didn't exist. That suited Jo just fine as she continued mopping the floor while listening in on Mrs. Garrett's conversation with Monica.
"I suppose you think this face-lift business is silly?"
"Oh, not at all. If it makes you feel better about yourself, I'm all for it."
Anxious to spend time with Blair and seeing that Mrs. Garrett was in a pleasant mood, Monica seized the moment.
"I just had another one of my brilliant ideas. It's perfect shopping weather. Mrs. Garrett, could I steal Blair away for this afternoon?"
Jo caught Mrs. Garrett's eye when Blair's mother spoke about her brilliant idea. Blair rarely got through the day without announcing one of her brilliant ideas and Jo and Edna shared a confidential acknowledgement of where Blair had picked up the phrase.
"Well . . . "
Blair lifted her brows in question as Mrs. Garrett pretended to hedge.
Mrs. Garrett laughed.
"I think I can spare her."
Blair hugged Edna, knowing that Tootie and Natalie would surely complain about doing all the work while Blair went shopping.
"Thank you, Mrs. Garrett. Mother, I have so much to talk to you about."
Although Monica walked Blair toward the other side of the room to ask her next question, Jo was still able to overhear the conversation.
"How is Randy, the love of your life?"
Jo missed Monica's reaction to Blair's response; her head was filled with applause for her girlfriend's candor.
"Come on, Darling. We have just enough time to get in some good shopping before lunch."
"Oh, I'll get my stuff and be right down."
After Blair extricated herself from her mother and turned toward the stairs, Jo intercepted her.
"Uh, Blair. Listen, um, I don't know what to wear to my interview. Do you think you could . . . um . . . I mean I could use . . ."
Blair knew how difficult it was for Jo to ask for help and assumed Jo had planned to drop hints once they were alone in their room, but Monica's impromptu visit forced Jo to openly acknowledge her need for Blair's advice. Jo nodded, a major concession to Blair's teasing.
"I'm sorry. I didn't quite hear that."
"Well . . . yeah."
"No, go ahead. Feel free to beg."
Jo leaned back and glared at her girlfriend, happy that Blair wasn't treating her as if the interview was anything Jo needed to worry about.
"You're really bustin' my chops, aren't ya?"
Blair put her arm around Jo's shoulder and drew her close.
"Come on, we'll see if we can find you something suitable."
On their way up the stairs, the playful blonde squeezed Jo and teased her more.
"Or just clean."
Monica, who had been proud of herself for her ability to pretend that Jo Polniaczek didn't exist, found her mind filled with uncomfortable images of her daughter helping the swaggering Bronx native undress and called out to Blair as she left the room.
"Don't be too long, honey."
Looking back, Blair would consider the sheer number of purchases Monica made at Harrison's Department Store that afternoon the first sign that something was wrong. Blair's mother often spent exorbitant amounts of money on extravagant shopping sprees, but Monica normally considered the fashions available in Peekskill to be beneath her standards.
Blair considered it advantageous that Tootie was with Mrs. Garrett when she and her mother returned from their shopping spree. Blair had been humiliated by her mother's blatant advances toward two students from Bates academy during lunch and hoped to give Tootie a version of events which would present Monica in a more favorable light. Blair had no doubt that the boys would be laughing with their friends about how Blair Warner's mother tried to pick them up, but Tootie could spread information faster than a speeding bullet and Blair knew that if her younger roommate felt other students were misinformed, she'd exhaust herself making sure everyone knew the 'real story'.
Mrs. Garrett was delighted to see Blair in such good spirits after spending the day with Monica.
"Wow. You and your mother bought up a storm."
"I'll say. When we finished, Harrison's Department Store looked like a cyclone hit it."
When the phone rang, Tootie answered it while Mrs. Garrett and Blair continued to sort through Blair's new clothes
"I'll get it."
Blair glanced at Tootie, hoping the caller wasn't someone who had witnessed the incident at lunch. Putting her own rose colored spin on her day, Blair spoke excitedly.
"You should have seen what happened at lunch. Two boys from Bates tried to pick us up. They just couldn't believe my mother wasn't my sister."
"Blair, it's for you, a 'Doctor Wyman'."
Blair was still using the overly cheerful tone of voice she'd been using with Mrs. Garrett and Tootie when she answered the phone.
"Hello, Dr. Sid?"
Blair put away her new clothes, took a shower, cleaned her room, and took another shower before wrapping herself in one of Jo's flannel shirts and staring listlessly out their bedroom window. The devastated blonde tried to focus on something, but every thought that entered her mind led her back to her mother. Blair's beautiful, loving, outrageously sexy mother had spent the entire day lying to her daughter.
Unable to distract herself in her room, Blair decided to go downstairs and help Mrs. Garrett. She couldn't allow herself to dwell on the information her mother's doctor had inadvertently told her. She couldn't break down. If she fled to the shower to sob again, Tootie would tell Mrs. Garrett and the caring woman would insist on trying to make Blair feel better, but Blair didn't want to feel better. She didn't want to feel anything. The thought of losing her mother to breast cancer was too painful to consider. Blair continued to do everything she could think of to push the things Dr. Wyman had told her from her mind.
Since wearing Jo's shirt downstairs would be inviting more questions than Blair cared to answer, she looked through her closet for something else of Jo's that she could wear. Jo didn't have a lot of clothes, but she had several vests. Jo had worn one of them the first night they'd met, when they went to the Chug-A-Lug bar. Blair paused at the denim vest, but decided on the soft brown leather one instead. It was the one Jo had worn most recently and Blair needed to feel Jo's presence, even though her girlfriend wouldn't be home for another hour.
Once in the kitchen, Blair busied herself with every mundane task she could find. Anything was better than thinking about what her mother must be going through. Blair continued to work on autopilot, unable to face the prospect of having dinner with her mother and having to confront Monica about her health.
Edna Garrett had given Blair as much time alone to process her feelings as she felt was appropriate before approaching the stony-faced blonde. She knew that Blair was in denial, but she suspected that Monica was reacting to the news in the same way and it would be dangerous for Monica to allow her illness to go untreated. Edna knew that it was unfair, but if Monica was determined to bury her head in the sand and ignore her condition, it would be up to Blair to convince her mother to do whatever was medically possible to fight her disease. It would be a daunting task for the pampered debutante, but Edna felt that Blair was up to the challenge.
"Blair, shouldn't you be getting ready to meet your mother for dinner?"
"I'm not going."
"Blair, you can't avoid her. You can't pretend you don't know about the biopsy."
"Mrs. Garrett, I can't face her. I don't know what to say to her."
"Well, you two talk about everything together, don't you?"
Blair's answer was automatic, but on second thought she changed her mind, her voice rising as she began to lose the slim grip on her emotions.
"No! I mean, I thought we did . . . but this is so . . . well, it's not something you just slip into small talk. Did you know Marcy's having another affair? The Gibsons are getting divorced and I hear you may have cancer."
"Blair, it may not be as bad as it seems. Maybe the lump in her breast is benign."
"But what if it's not, Mrs. Garrett? I know what's important to my mother. Her face. Her clothes. The way she looks. The way she LOOKS, Mrs. Garrett! I can't talk to her about that!"
Edna wanted to comfort the young woman who had come to be so dear to her, but nothing she could say could alleviate Blair's pain. When Tootie interrupted their conversation, she took the brunt of Blair's temper. Mrs. Garrett tried to make excuses for Blair's gruff treatment of her youngest roommate, but Tootie wasn't interested in hearing them, she wanted . . . needed for Blair to acknowledge Tootie's trustworthiness as Blair's friend. Tootie knew that she was considered the biggest gossip on campus, but she felt that one of her closest friends should know that she could be trusted not to repeat such personal information. Although the awkward way in which the teenage friends tested one another's perception of the other reflected their youthful inexperience in dealing with life and death situations, they ended their conversation with a hug. Blair took a leap of faith in trusting that her young friend would stay quiet and Tootie later earned Blair's trust by being true to her word.
When Jo burst into the kitchen, it was as if a tornado had swept into the smothering stillness.
"A clock! I need a clock. Mrs. Garrett, I'm taking your timer."
Jo began slamming items down on the counter as Natalie tugged at her erratic friend.
"And a fuse. I need a fuse. Good, now I can mix up some stuff in the science lab."
"What are you making? A bomb?"
Mrs. Garrett was still smiling about the joke she'd made when Natalie shouted verification of the wild accusation.
Jo's eyes narrowed into a dangerous glare as she imagined what she intended to do to the motorcycle dealership where she'd been turned down for a job.
"I'm going to roll it through their front door and then POW, boy POW! Dead Kawasakis all over the street!"
"I take it you didn't get the job. May I have those matches, please?"
Mrs. Garrett yanked a box of matches from Jo's hands as she spoke.
"That's right. I did not get the job! Did anybody miss that? I DID NOT get the job. G'head, Blair. Hit me with your best shot, g'head."
Blair's mind was still buried in a self-created fog intended to deaden her emotions. She loved Jo, but Jo's current problem didn't seem as serious as it had appeared only a few short hours earlier. Blair had remained stoically silent as Jo had screamed her frustration only inches from Blair's face. Natalie, who had seen Blair explode given much less provocation, was as stunned by Blair's lack of emotion as she was by the intensity of Jo's meltdown.
"Oh, Blair. You can do better than that."
Natalie turned to Tootie for an explanation.
"What's wrong with her?"
"Who knows? Maybe she chipped her nail polish or something. You know how that depresses her. Come on, Nat, let's go get a candy bar, my treat."
Blair and Tootie locked eyes and shared a moment of true companionship experienced only by friends who had earned one another's trust and respect while Natalie gave Blair and Mrs. Garrett a final warning.
"Keep your eye on the mad bomber."
After Blair's nonexistent reaction to her overblown outburst, Jo finally took the time to notice her girlfriend. She cocked her head, confused to see Blair wearing her vest, before softening her voice.
"I don't know what I did wrong. Maybe Blair was right. Maybe it is my clothes."
Jo had been standing between Edna and Blair, but she moved to Blair's side as she spoke. Feeling Jo's gaze resting on her, Blair had to respond.
"Your shoes and belt match. What else matters?"
Mrs. Garrett was proud of the self-centered blonde, who was trying her best to be nice to Jo despite her own personal turmoil.
"You see, Jo. You look just fine."
"Well, I feel rotten. Face it, Blair's right. I have a personality problem. I'm pushy and irritating and definitely lacking in charisma."
There was no teasing in Blair's voice when she contradicted Jo.
Jo stood up and headed for the stairs, expecting Blair to follow her later. She wasn't surprised by Blair's next comments, only that Blair delivered them in front of Mrs. Garrett instead of waiting until she was alone with Jo.
"Don't you know . . . that when somebody doesn't want you, that's their problem?"
Jo shoved her hand in her pocket so that she could feel Blair's initials engraved on her keychain and remind herself that the amazing young woman talking to her was her girlfriend. Jo took a few steps back toward Blair, gazing deeply into her eyes as she questioned her.
"You really believe that?"
Mrs. Garrett felt her heart would burst with pride as Blair was able to push her worries about her mother aside for a moment and tell Jo what the disappointed, self-doubting girl needed to hear.
"Jo, you said it yourself this morning. You are what you are and if that's not good enough . . . they can just ."
"Blow it out their crank case?"
Jo grinned, falling in love with Blair for the hundredth time.
Mrs. Garrett nodded her approval.
Jo placed her other hand in her pocket in order to keep from touching Blair in front of Mrs. Garrett. Her gaze, however, was so intense it caressed her girlfriend as firmly as any touch. Jo licked her lips, reminding herself that she shouldn't lean forward and kiss Blair, but wanting nothing more at the moment.
"Yeah. Well, I knew that . . . but thanks for reminding me. You know, Blair, you . . . you are what you are . . . and that's good enough for me."
Mrs. Garrett watched the couple in silence, not wanting to interrupt the unspoken declarations of love communicated through several long moments of gazing into one another eyes before Jo finally turned and left the room, hoping that her girlfriend would soon follow her so that she could express her feelings more thoroughly.
"You were wonderful . . . what you did for Jo."
"What did I do?"
"You really helped her."
"How? I didn't solve her problem and I didn't tell her anything she didn't already know."
"You were there for her. That's all anyone needs from a friend."
Mrs. Garrett hated to press Blair when the young woman was so vulnerable, but she had to point out to Blair that the young woman was going to have to give her mother the same kind of support she'd shown to her roommate. Blair listened carefully to Mrs. Garrett before making up her mind to keep her dinner date with her mother, but by the time she got to her bedroom Jo had given up on seeing Blair privately that evening and had turned her attention elsewhere.
Blair smiled as she stood in the doorway of their room, silently watching Jo, who was sitting on her bed working with one of the many engine parts she seemed to be constantly oiling. When Jo noticed that her girlfriend had finally arrived, Blair entered their room and sat on the opposite edge of Jo's bed.
"I'm sorry that you didn't get the job, Jo. They would have been lucky to have you working there."
"Yeah, it's their loss. What you said downstairs was . . . it was really nice."
"I meant it. You look very nice, Jo. Those colors bring out the green in your eyes."
Jo looked down at her clothes.
"Maybe I shouldn't have worn jeans to the interview."
"You weren't interviewing for a sales job at Harrison's, Jo. I would have told you before the interview if I thought you needed to wear something else."
"Who am I trying to fool? They were never going to hire me for that job, no matter what I wore to the interview. They hired a guy."
Blair sighed and fell backwards onto Jo's bed, staring at the ceiling while Jo began dismantling the engine part.
"I was just wondering if . . . it's nothing."
Jo stopped working and gazed upside down at her girlfriend.
"Are you sure, 'cause I can't keep starting and stopping all afternoon?"
"I'm supposed to have dinner with Mother tonight."
"Don't you want to go?"
"No, I don't."
"Hmm, did you argue about me?"
Blair rolled onto her stomach so that she could see Jo properly and half smiled.
"No. Apparently she's decided to pretend that you don't exist. I'm sorry that she ignored you when she was here."
Jo stood up and placed the engine part in her toolbox before stretching out along her bed beside Blair.
"Hey, I don't mind being ignored. I'm just glad that she's not trying to separate us. She's not, is she?"
"No. She has a lot of other things on her mind."
"Yeah? Like what?"
Jo braced herself on one elbow while tugging Blair's vest in order to draw the blonde closer to her on the bed.
"You can tell me, Blair. You're not going to hurt my feelings by telling me what your mother said about me, I know she doesn't like me."
"It's . . . something else."
"Just spill it, Blair."
Jo's words seemed gruff, but her tone was gentle, coaxing Blair to tell her what was wrong.
"My mother's doctor called this afternoon."
"Is she going to reschedule her face-lift?"
"There never was going to be a face-lift, Jo. She made it up so that I wouldn't wonder about why she was in the hospital. Jo . . . my mother."
Jo slid closer to her girlfriend when she heard Blair's voice break with emotion and drew the tearful blonde into her arms.
"Hey, whatever it is, it's gonna be okay."
"No, it's not. My mother has a tumor. They ran tests to find out whether or not it's cancer."
Jo didn't speak, but she tightened her embrace.
"The tumor is in her breast, Joey. You know what that means."
Jo kissed Blair's cheek and tried to wipe away some of her tears.
"I know it's hard not to worry, Blair, but it may not be cancer. When did your mother say she would get the test results?"
Blair responded between sniffles.
"She didn't. She hasn't even told me about any of it. If I hadn't gotten a call from Doctor Sid and if he hadn't assumed that I already knew, she never would have told me anything."
"She's just trying to keep you from worrying about it until she knows something for sure, Blair. She's trying to protect you."
Blair pulled away so that she could look Jo directly in the eyes.
"I don't want to be protected from the truth, Jo. When you love someone, you don't hide things from them, even to protect them."
It was a warning to Jo as much as it was a complaint about her mother and Jo nodded her understanding.
"She's expecting me to join her at the hotel for dinner and I don't know what I'm going to say."
"Would you, uh, like for someone, uh, me to go with you?"
Blair smiled and kissed Jo's cheek, her lips still touching Jo's skin when she spoke.
"Thank you, Jo. It means so much to me that you'd offer and I'd love to have you with me, but I have to think about what Mother needs and . . . well . . . it will be less difficult for her if I go alone."
"Yeah, that's what I thought, but I'm here for you if you need me."
"Will you wait up for me tonight? It may be very late before I get back."
"I'll be up. Don't worry about how late you get in. Do what you need to do and then come home to me."
Blair closed her eyes for a moment, enjoying the security of Jo's embrace, before rising to face her mother.
When Blair arrived at her mother's hotel room, Monica was still pretending that nothing was wrong. As she dressed for dinner, Monica began trying to tempt Blair into taking a spontaneous vacation to Hawaii. Monica kept up the chatter as she gathered her clothes and began changing, but Blair wasn't listening, she was quietly lifting her mother's suitcase onto the bed so that she could begin packing. Even if her mother wasn't ready to face the possibility that she might have breast cancer, Blair was determined not to allow her mother to endanger her health.
"What are you doing?"
"You're not going to Hawaii, Mother. You're going back to the city."
"Why? Bunny can get married without me."
"Mother, stop it."
"Stop what? You know, Blair, you're crinkling my crepe."
Blair's nerves were on edge and her mother was worried about Blair wrinkling her clothes.
"I can't take this anymore."
Monica flew to her Blair's side when her agitated daughter threw her shoes into the suitcase.
"The shoes belong on the bottom. The shoes ."
"Who cares about your stupid shoes?! You've got to get back to the city. You've got to get the results of your biopsy."
"I have the damned results!"
Jo sat at one of the cafeteria tables with Mrs. Garrett while Tootie and Natalie watched television in the lounge.
"Did Blair tell Tootie?"
"Tootie overheard Blair's conversation with Monica's doctor. She didn't intentionally listen and she hasn't told another soul, not even Natalie."
Jo nodded, pleased that Tootie was handling the situation compassionately and maturely.
"How long do you think Monica would have tried to keep it from Blair?"
Edna shook her head.
"Too long, but now that Blair knows, she'll be able to help her mother deal with it."
"Do you think Blair's up to that? Sometimes she hates the things her mother does, but she adores Monica."
"Blair's much stronger than you realize, Jo."
Jo frowned, momentarily wishing Mrs. Garrett knew how well she knew Blair.
"I know there's more to Blair than meets the eye."
Mrs. Garrett searched Jo's eyes, but had long ago decided not to ask probing questions about Jo and Blair's relationship.
"She's grown up a lot since she's met you, Jo. I'm glad you two have become such good friends."
"When we're not trying to kill one another?"
"Yes. Seriously, Jo, she's going to need someone to talk to about her mother. I'll encourage her to talk about her feelings with me, but some things are easier to talk about with a friend."
Jo nodded, looking as if she wanted to say more.
"Some things are harder to talk about with a friend."
"Why don't you join Natalie and Tootie in the lounge? Blair won't be back for hours and it will do you good to enjoy yourself. I know that your day was stressful, too. Blair was right, you know, anyone who doesn't want you, exactly as you are, then that's their problem."
Jo smiled at the understanding redhead, not realizing that Mrs. Garrett was trying to communicate a more far-reaching level of acceptance.
"You're one of a kind, Mrs. G."
Edna stood and tossed her head from side to side as she sashayed into the kitchen.
"You can say that again."
Blair tried to console her mother as Monica openly wept.
"It's all right, Mom. It'll be all right."
"No, it won't. It's never going to be all right again."
Monica sobbed as she turned her back to Blair.
"What do you have to do now?"
Blair was holding in her emotions, trying to help her mother to think rationally.
"I don't know. Sid wants me to come in and talk. He said, 'Monica calm down, it's not the end of the world'. Oh, God! How does he know where my world ends?!"
Monica threw the garment she'd been packing onto the floor, distraught.
"Mother, I wish I could say some magic word and make it all . . . but you can't run away from this, Mother. You've got to find out how they can help you."
Monica continued to sob, refusing to listen to Blair.
"Help me? It is not going to help me by cutting off my breasts!"
Blair shook her head, exasperated yet maintaining a calm facade.
"They may not have to do that. It's not that automatic anymore. There's so many other ways of treating this kind of . . . cancer."
Monica stared at her daughter as if seeing her for the first time. Wondering what had happened in her daughter's life to make the young woman so courageous.
"Oh, Blair. I wanted to spare you this. I didn't want you to worry. You're my baby. I'm supposed to take care of you."
"You can't take care of me if you're not here. I won't let you put this off, Mother. I don't want to lose you."
"I can't believe this. What happened to that little girl who used to hide in the bathroom when her hair didn't curl just right."
"Oh, I still do that, but I don't hide from everything. You know, we Warner women are a lot stronger than people think we are."
Jo sat in the darkened lounge, waiting for Blair and thinking about her own mother. She had called Rose earlier that evening. She needed to hear her mother's voice, needed to know that her mother was okay. She had bravely asked how her mother had broken her arm and had heard the regret in Rose's voice for having caused Jo undue worry as to how she'd been injured. The door to Rose's apartment would often stick and it sometimes needed a good shove before it would open. Unfortunately, Rose was shoving at the same time Mr. Balducci was working on the door and they collided, breaking Rose's arm.
Jo was protective of Blair, but she didn't worry about Blair the way that she worried about her mother and father. Rose's weakness for abusive boyfriends and Charlie's obsessive desire for wealth and prominence gave Jo reason to be concerned about her parents. Eddie Brennan appeared to be a pillar of strength, but Jo also worried about Eddie. She was afraid that Eddie's heart would be irreparably broken when he discovered that the only person he felt he could depend on was in love with someone else.
Jo was self-aware enough to realize that she liked taking care of the people in her life, but she was human enough to know that sometimes she needed someone else to be strong for her. Blair had filled that role more times than Jo could count. As she sat in the dark, Jo began to recount the number of times she had wept in Blair's arms. At that moment, Blair was fighting for her mother's life, trying her best to convince Monica to meet with her doctors and follow their medical advice.
Jo gazed at the keychain she'd been fondling while she waited for Blair to return from her mother's hotel and resolved in her heart to do everything in her power to make things easier for Blair. Jo took comfort in the strength she'd seen in Blair, in the reassurance she'd often drawn from her girlfriend. Blair would certainly be able to support her mother as well as she'd supported Jo.
Across town, Blair's relationship with her mother was taking a dramatic turn. For the first time, mother and daughter were beginning to forgive one another for past disappointments and accept one another for who they were.
"I think what we are is . . . playmates. I mean, we gossip, boy, do we gossip, and we talk about clothes and men, but we don't talk about things like . . . life and death."
"Blair, that's not fair."
"Face it, Mother, what we have is a deep, superficial relationship."
Monica considered her daughter's words, once again amazed by Blair's unrelenting honesty.
"How do we start?"
Blair sat down beside her mother, folding trembling hands into her own.
"After all these years, why don't you tell me what I can do for you?"
"Oh, I'd say more of what you're doing right now."
"I promise you, Mother, we'll get through this thing . . . together."
"You really are a beautiful young woman."
"Because I look like you."
"No, no, no. I wasn't talking about your face."
Monica could see how much her daughter had matured and fought the idea that meeting Jo Polniaczek could possibly have helped her daughter to become the strong woman who was currently comforting her mother.
"I'm glad that you're here. Will you stay with me a while?"
Blair sighed, relieved that her mother had decided to allow the younger woman to console her.
"For as long as you need me."
Blair crept quietly into Mrs. Garrett's lounge, careful not to make too much noise. Instead of walking up the steps to her room, she sat at the foot of the stairs, thinking about her mother. Blair didn't realize that she was being watched until Jo walked into sight. Jo tried to make her voice sound stern, knowing Blair would see through her act regardless of its authenticity.
"You missed curfew."
"What are you, my warden?"
Jo walked over to the stairs and sat down beside Blair.
"I was worried about you."
Blair refused to look at Jo, she knew that if she looked at Jo, she would break down and she didn't want to fall apart in front of Jo.
"She's my mother, Jo."
Jo took Blair's hand, but didn't say anything.
"I know she's not perfect, but she's my mother and I love her."
Blair released Jo's hand and buried her face in her hands.
"She cried, Jo. Can you imagine what that was like . . . seeing my mother cry?"
Jo once again took Blair's hand, waiting for Blair to give her any type of signal that she wanted more.
"I know that it can't help to hear this, but I love you. I'd do anything to make things better for you."
Blair looked up at Jo, tears pouring from her eyes.
"It does help. It always helps. She treats me like I'm still a child, but I'm not. I want to help her. I need to help her. How could she find out that she has breast cancer and not tell me? What if I hadn't found out and she'd had to go through this alone? She couldn't do it, Jo."
Jo put her arm around Blair and held her close, not knowing any other way to comfort her.
"I shouldn't have asked you to wait up for me, Jo. I had no idea that I'd be out so late."
"Nothing could have kept me from waiting for you, Blair. I hate to see you hurting. I'd do anything "
Blair squeezed Jo tighter.
"I know you would, Joey. I love you, too. What can I do for her, Jo? How can I help her?"
"It seems to me like you've already helped her. Being there for her tonight helped her. Listening helped her. She probably needed to cry and I'm sure that you being there was a thousand times better than crying alone."
"You've seen my mother, Jo. You know how beautiful she is. Her looks mean EVERYTHING to her. I'm so afraid that if they tell her that she needs a . . . a mastectomy, that she won't do it. It took all night just to talk her into going back to the city to meet with Doctor Sid."
Jo stood up, pulling Blair along with her and walked them over to the couch.
"You're a good daughter, Blair. I don't know many girls who could have done what you did tonight. I know you're scared, but I'm sure that in your mother's eyes you appeared fearless. That's going to help her get through this."
"I told her that I'd go back to the city with her tomorrow, uh, today."
"How long are you going to stay?"
"I'm going to see Doctor Sid with her this afternoon and I'll know more after we talk with him. She's sure that the biopsy results are bad and I'm pretty sure she's right. Doctor Sid is a family friend and he would have told her over the telephone if the tumor was benign."
"I wish you didn't have to leave, but I know you want to do what's best for your mother. I want to do what's best for you, Blair. I'm not sure how I can do that with you so far away, but I'm going to try."
"I'll miss you, Jo. I shouldn't be gone long, but . . . um . . . maybe you could . . . maybe visit . . . if ."
"Yeah. I'd love to come visit you in New York."
"Of course I would. I'm not going to let you go through this alone any more than you'd let your mother face cancer alone. I need to be with you, Blair. I need to be there for you."
Blair leaned over and kissed Jo gently on the lips.
"I have to pack, but I'll call you tonight. I'll call you every night. Okay?"
"You'd better. I'll even take notes in history class for you."
"Ha, will you take the test for me, too?"
"Right now, Princess, I can't think of anything I wouldn't do for you."
Post Series Flash Forward: Tootie Returns to Peekskill
"Am I deceiving myself, Jo? You would tell me if I looked hideous, wouldn't you?"
Jo grinned, using every ounce of self-control to keep from lunging at her partner, who was examining her body carefully in the mirror.
"Believe me, Princess. I'm tempted to lock you in this room, but it's not because of how bad you look. It's because I don't want to have to beat off the throng of admirers who will be surrounding you today."
Blair giggled and coquettishly twirled her hair.
"So, you don't think I'm too old to wear something so . . . revealing?"
Jo stood behind Blair, admiring her lover's image in the mirror.
"Not when what you have to reveal is so appealing."
Jo's arms encircled Blair from behind, gently tickling the bare skin showing above the grass hula skirt clinging to Blair's hips.
"You might consider wearing something over that tropical bra, just to keep from starting a riot at Mrs. G.'s store."
Blair slapped Jo's forearm.
"This is not a bra. It's what one wears with a hula skirt."
"It's what one wears if she wants to make her lover jealous."
"So . . . you will find time to stop by Edna's Edibles today?"
"As if I'd let you parade around in that outfit without me there to fend off the perverts."
Blair smiled and twirled in front of the mirror before skipping toward the door to their bathroom.
"You're so romantic first thing in the morning."
"Yeah? Well, if I'm so romantic, why are you running off so fast?"
Blair giggled as she ran into the bathroom.
"To change into the shorts and Hawaiian shirt I'm really wearing today. I can't believe you were naïve enough to believe I would go out in public in nothing more than a grass skirt."
Jo grinned as she reached into her pocket and withdrew Blair's car keys, which she'd hidden the moment she saw Blair in the hula skirt.
'Yeah, and I can't believe you were gullible enough to believe I was gonna let you leave this house wearing that', thought Jo as the keys clattered onto the dresser.
Perhaps it was the jangling sound the keys made that prompted Jo's next thought.
"Hey, Blair. Do we still have that old Don Ho album?"
Jo jogged into the kitchen only seconds before Bailey, both of them too winded to speak. Jo, with her hands on her knees gasping for breath, managed an 'I'm okay' smile for Blair while Bailey appeared fresh as a daisy. Dorothy, who was wearing floral Bermuda shorts and a blindingly bright Hawaiian shirt, handed her athletic friend a glass of orange juice.
There was an awkward moment when Bailey first made eye contact with Beverly, which was accentuated when Beverly stood up to face the older girl. Blair was as breathless as Jo as she waited for Beverly to speak.
"Bailey, I apologize for my inexcusable remarks last night."
Jo glanced at Blair, both of them remembering a similar apology Blair gave Jo after making fun of Jo's jeans when the two first met. Although Blair's apology had been just as formal as Beverly's, her voice had exuded sincerity, a characteristic Jo didn't hear in Beverly's rehearsed apology.
Dorothy cleared her throat, prompting Beverly to continue.
"I also apologized to E.J. for teasing her and Marie about holding hands. It won't happen again."
Jeff shifted uncomfortably, avoiding eye contact with anyone until he rose from his chair and frowned at his daughter.
"Well, now that we've gotten that out of the way, Beverly and I will be leaving. I want to get to the conference early so that I can make sure she has a front row seat for my lecture. Bev and I will eat breakfast in the city."
Dorothy glared at her husband, but gave her daughter a fleeting smile as she and Jeff left the kitchen.
"I know it's not enough, but I'm sorry, too."
Bailey smiled at the woman who used to paint her face in clown makeup when she was a child.
"No harm done, Aunt Tootie. Although, you can't fault me for wishing Beverly would have had to wear an outfit like the one you have on this morning. Of course, that would have been cruel and unusual punishment."
Dorothy looked down at her clothes.
"I like dressing up. It never bothered me to wear costumes the way it bothered Natalie and Jo. I guess it has something to do with being an actress. Costumes are part of my trade."
As Tootie was modeling her outfit, Natalie Greene's voice boomed from the kitchen doorway.
"If I have to listen to that cheerful attitude all day, I'm going to need something extra in my coffee this morning."
Natalie was wearing the same outfit as Dorothy, but her shirt was stained with fruit juice and her shorts were two sizes too large, held up by a belt covered in cartoon characters.
Jo put her hand over her lips to prevent herself from spewing orange juice across the room. As funny as Natalie appeared, Jo was laughing at the man standing behind the disheveled reporter. Alex Garrett stood beside his mother and his girlfriend, wearing what Jo assumed Mrs. G. considered a male version of the Hawaiian outfits worn by the women. While Natalie's clothes were too large, the outfit Alex wore was painfully small. His shirt strained open at the buttons, revealing small areas of skin along his stomach. His shorts were tight and ridiculously short, resembling a skimpy swimsuit more than shorts appropriate for walking around downtown Peekskill.
Jo, Dorothy, E.J., and Bailey speechlessly gaped at Natalie's boyfriend, but Blair grinned mischievously and batted her eyes at Alex's bulging shorts.
"Edna, if Alex is going to wear those shorts, I'll have to paint an 'Adults Only' sign for the outside of the shop and E.J. will have to stay home."
E.J., who looked more adorable than the children in Kodak commercials, perked up, hopeful that she'd get a reprieve from the monthly torture she and Garrett endured from their classmates during Edna's Edible's theme sales.
Natalie, however, managed to dash E.J.'s hopes and irritate Jo at the same time.
"At least my better half is making an appearance today. A task neither you nor Dorothy were able to successfully manage."
Blair made a face at her dear friend and busied herself preparing breakfast for her guests.
Through the years, Edna continued dressing her employees in costumes representing monthly themes because more customers came into the shop on those weekends than during the other three weekends of the month combined. No one mentioned that the massive crowds were more interested in being waited on by members of the wealthiest family in town dressed in humiliating costumes than they were in sampling Edna's delicacies.
Theme weekends were especially popular among students at Eastland's School for Boys as Garrett's classmates stopped by to taunt the popular athlete, but when Garrett entered the kitchen shortly after his mother's exchange with Natalie, his appearance only accentuated Alex's mortification.
The Eastland heartthrob was wearing his basketball shorts, a gold tank top and a green Hawaiian lei that made his bright green eyes sparkle.
Alex turned to his mother, pouting.
"You didn't tell me I could wear ball shorts."
Edna shrugged, wondering why Alex was behaving so childishly.
"You didn't ask. You look just fine. Doesn't he, Natalie?
Natalie looked at her boyfriend, soon-to-be-announced fiancé, looped her arm in his and smiled resiliently.
"At least we match in our hideousness."
Garrett wasn't interested in Natalie and Alex, his eyes were locked on his older sister.
"Why isn't Bailey dressed?"
Blair raised her eyebrows at her oldest daughter.
"That's a good question."
Bailey started to laugh, looking toward Jo for support, but finding none.
"I, um, I'm going to the motorcycle shop with Mom."
Edna Gains turned to Jo, her voice gentle but firm.
"Jo, can't you spare Bailey today? It would mean so much to me to have so many of my girls working together again."
Bailey inwardly groaned, knowing her mom would never deny Mrs. G. anything. Realizing that resistance was futile, Bailey quickly surrendered.
"I'll be back down in ten minutes, dressed to impress."
Bailey lightly punched her brother in the arm on her way out of the kitchen.
"I will get even."
Once Bailey was gone and the other ladies were placing breakfast plates on the table, Mrs. G. cornered Jo.
"It won't be the same without you, Jo. Who knows if I'll ever have all of my girls in town at the same time again?"
"Aw, Mrs. G., you know how much I hate wearing those silly outfits, but I'll be there for most of the day."
"Yes, but half the people who show up today will only be there because they want to see you in costume."
Jo's jaw dropped as she glared at her mentor and former guardian.
"You mean you know that the only reason people come to this is to see us humiliate ourselves."
Edna Garrett Gains laughed so hard she had to lean against a chair.
"Dear Jo, that's why they came twenty years ago."
"What about your Don Ho upside down pineapple muffins?"
"I'm a businesswoman, Jo. They'll be just as happy if Blair microwaves frozen waffles and serves them on paper plates. As long as the customer is happy and the cash register is full, it's a successful day."
Like Bailey, Jo knew it was useless to resist.
"I'll wear a stupid costume, but I have to drop by the motorcycle shop before coming to the store in order to gather some documents. I'm being sued."
Garrett, Edna, and Natalie all spoke in unison.
Jo shrugged and winked at Blair, eliciting a glare of disapproval.
"You don't have to act so happy about it, Jo."
Once Blair returned her attention to preparing the morning meal, Jo noticed that Tootie and Natalie were staring at her and whispering to one another.
"Where on earth have you been, Jo?"
"Where I always go in the mornings, when it isn't raining. I've been running."
"It looks more like you've been rolling in the field instead of running around it."
Jo frowned at her two friends, never happy to be the object of ridicule, especially when she had no idea why they were making fun of her.
"Give me a break. You two are acting like a couple of four-year-olds."
Shaking her head, Dorothy stepped closer to Jo and pulled something from the brunette's hair.
"So, can you explain to my four-year-old mind why you have grass in your hair?"
Blair clenched the kitchen counter.
'Breathe, breathe, don't giggle, don't giggle, breathe.'
Blair and Jo did a great job of covering their embarrassment. If Bailey hadn't returned to the kitchen at that exact moment, the two women may not have been subjected to crude jokes made by their best friends over the course of the next several years.
"Mother, have you seen my grass hula skirt?"
Natalie practically rolled onto the floor in a fit of laughter while Jo glared at her daughter as she bolted from the room.
"No, she hasn't seen it and y'ain't wearing it anyway."
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