So, who’s gonna pay for this?
Mar 14, 2024
Season 9

So, who’s gonna pay for this?

We're looking back to one of our favorite episodes, about a money fight that ended up being about much more.

When you ask Nicole Fresenburg and Rachel Lee how long they’ve been together, it’s a bit of a hot topic.

“I like to round up, ’cause I really, really wanted to be with you a lot sooner than you allowed our progression to move,” Fresenburg said during our interview.

“Never thought it would happen. I mean, that’s no shade,” Lee added. “I love white people. Uh, got a lot of white friends. I just, I had never really seriously thought about it.”

Fresenburg is white, Lee is Black. They’ve been together about three years, and during that time they’ve had to contend with a lot. Lee was the first Black partner and first woman Fresenburg brought home to her Catholic, conservative family. Plus, when they first met, Lee was still dealing with the aftermath of a divorce.

It was a slow start but, three years in, they’re happily engaged. Which is a great time to get into their first significant fight over money.

Here’s what happened: During a stay at the Fresenburg family home last summer, Fresenburg’s 2-year-old nephew was playing outside and accidentally scratched up Lee’s car.

To Lee, it seemed obvious the family should pay to get the scratch fixed. Fresenburg, conflict averse, really didn’t want to involve them. As they hashed things out in the months that followed, both women realized the fight wasn’t really about money at all.

“I don’t even think I realized I had all of this, like, simmering about the car, but that’s why I was so upset that Nicole wasn’t upset,” Lee said. “I just don’t have nice things all the time, and so when I get them, I take care of them.”

If you like this episode, share it with a friend. And to get even more Uncomfortable, subscribe to our newsletter. Each Friday, you’ll get a note from Reema and some recs from the Uncomfortable team. If you missed it, here’s the latest issue.

Do you have a money fight to share? If you want to tell us your story, what you thought about the episode or anything else, email us at or fill out the form below.

This is Uncomfortable March 14, 2024 Transcript


Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.


Reema Khrais: Hey y’all, it’s me, Reema. I know we’ve gotten a bunch of new subscribers lately, so we thought we’d share with y’all one of our favorite episodes from our back catalog. It really gets at the heart of our show, which is how money can get all wrapped up with emotions and impact our relationships. 


But before I share that story, I just wanted to take a moment and say, thank you so much for all  the kind and thoughtful feedback from the first episode of the season. That’s the episode where I have a conversation with my dad about his life in Gaza. I really loved reading your emails and supportive comments. They honestly meant so much to me, and I just feel so lucky to be able to share something so personal and meaningful with all of you. So just wanted to say — thank you all so much for that…


Alright, we will be back with a new story next week, but in the meantime I hope you enjoy this episode, which I should say also includes a brief update at the very end, so be sure to catch that. Alright here it is.


Reema: okay let’s start off, um, and have y’all introduce yourselves.

Rachel: My name is Rachel Lee.

Nicole: my name is Nicole Fresenburg.

Reema: and how long have you all been together for? 

Rachel: Hot topic. Nicole, you answer.

Nicole: I mean, I like to round up, cause I really, really wanted to be with you a lot sooner than you allowed our progression to move. So about three years 

Reema: Aw, how long did you want to be with her? 

Nicole: forever.

Rachel & Reema: Aw.

Nicole: I know. How cute is that? 

Rachel: Oh my god.

Reema: And then just because people will be listening to this, um, you all are an interracial couple.

Nicole: Yes 

Rachel: We are. Girl. Never thought it would happen. I mean, that’s no shade, like I love white people. Uh, got a lot of white friends. I just, I had never, I had never really seriously thought about it. 


Reema: That’s Rachel. Rachel is Black, and Nicole is white. Rachel, who you just heard from, is super outgoing…a classic extrovert. 


Rachel: I’m totally recharged by being around people. I’ve always always always loved  people. 


Reema: And Nicole couldn’t be any more different… 


Nicole: I hate people. I’m very like introverted and like nervous to talk to people


Reema: She keeps to herself and is non confrontational…which is something we’ll come back to later. 

The two of them met at work back in 2019… And the way they tell it, everything started off very platonic. They both got thrown onto the same work project and were suddenly in all these meetings together, so Rachel – the outgoing one – figured it was time to break the ice. 


Rachel: I mean, it’s like, it’s weird. If you have meetings with someone and you work on the same floor and you don’t talk to them, right. So I’m like, Hey girl, I see you in meetings. What’s your name?

Nicole: I like almost missed it, too. Cause I was so like ready to leave for the day that my head was down and I just like walked past her cubicle very quickly. And then I like backward tracked and was like, oh, are you talking to me? And she’s like, yeah! I’m like, oh.

Rachel: And how did, how did you feel in that moment? 

Nicole: So like awkward and embarrassed, cause I like to try to move through life without being noticed.


Reema: But Rachel noticed her…and it was the beginning of a beautiful work friendship. They’d exchange funny emails, hang out by each other’s cubicles. And over time, it turned into something more. Now, three years later, Rachel and Nicole are engaged.

And they’re on the same page about…basically everything: they both share the same kinda humor, they both want kids and they absolutely love to travel. 

But one thing they have discovered they are not 100% on the same page about… is finances. Or at least when it came to one specific incident.  


Rachel: the only time Nicole and I have ever had a fight about money related things was about a car. 


Reema: And this fight over a car — it morphed into something much larger – into something that’d drag on for months…


Nicole: It was a hot mess.

Reema: so where does like, what’s the beginning here? What, what happened?

Nicole: OOF….


Reema: I’m Reema Khrais and welcome to This Is Uncomfortable…a show from Marketplace about life and how money messes with it. 

Today’s episode is part of our recurring series called Money Fight: it’s basically where I talk to two people about one of their most intense or memorable fights around money and how they dealt with it…or didn’t.

The inspiration for it actually came from a conversation I had with a financial therapist, and she told me that in relationships, conflicts over money almost never get fully resolved. And that’s largely cause our habits around money can be so deeply ingrained. How we think of it, how we handle it — so much of it is influenced by what we saw growing up. 

Rachel and Nicole are actually listeners of the show and reached out to us about this money fight, which on the surface seems like it’s over something simple, but it’s a great example of how money fights are rarely ever just about money. 


So like I said …at first their friendship was super platonic. At the time, Nicole hadn’t really come out to anyone and Rachel – the extroverted one – was in the middle of a divorce. 

One Friday, wanting to be a good friend, Nicole asked Rachel if she wanted to get a drink to help get her mind off things.


Rachel: And so I said, yes. And we went to this restaurant, Joey B’s, and girl, we are sitting at this restaurant talking, talking, talking, and Nicole is talking about her ex-boyfriend so I’m listening, you know, game recognize game. Like I know she’s gay. 

Reema: Oh, wait, wait, wait. You think at that point you knew that she was?

Rachel: I knew the first time I saw her. So she was talking about this ex boyfriend and I’m just listening politely. Cause you know, you know, it’s a spectrum. She could add a boyfriend, she could be bisexual or whatever. And then probably like 20 minutes into the conversation She’s like, I’ve never told anybody this, but I think I’m gay.

Nicole: I asked you, how do you know if you’re gay? I wanted to understand.

Rachel: You did?

Nicole: Yes.

Rachel: Oh.

Nicole: And then you said, “Girl, you’re gay gay!” for the whole restaurant to hear, and I’m like, “Holy [BLEEP]! You just told everyone in this restaurant that I’m gay. And second of all, how do you know?” Because if you know that I’m gay than everyone else in my life must know, and this is like traumatic. Like, from my Catholic conservative family, like this I’ve hidden myself forever. And here you are like, and I’m like, is it my hair? Is it my clothes? Oh my God. Like, Ooh, it was a heart attack.

Rachel: and I was like D all of the above *laughter*


Reema: With Rachel’s encouragement, Nicole went to therapy and eventually came out to her family. Meanwhile, Rachel took time to recover from her divorce. 

And throughout all of this, they were getting closer and closer 


Nicole: It was like a lot of work and the long journey. Um, but we, we still were friends. We were still hanging out at the same time and just like having a great time and realizing that we have a good rhythm.

Rachel: yeah, LOL having a great time. We was [BLEEP]ing,

Nicole: *laughter* Ooh, that can’t go on the podcast. *laughter*

RL: I mean it’s true.


Reema: And the rest is history. I could probably go on for another 20 minutes on how cute and fun Rachel and Nicole are…but…let’s get to that fight. 

By July of last year, after a few years into dating, Nicole and Rachel had moved in together…


Nicole: Rachel and I were living together in my condo and we were putting the condo on the market. 


Reema: While their real estate agent was doing showings of the condo, they decided to stay with Nicole’s family for a week.

One afternoon…Nicole’s dad was playing outside with his 2 year old grandson. And the thing you need to know about this toddler…is that he loves to pretend to paint. 

So they normally give him a paintbrush and a cup of plain water and let him go to town…so he ”paints” the grass with water…the cement…even the cars parked in the driveway


Nicole: So he took his paint brush to paint Rachel’s car, and the paint brush has like a metal piece on it. He just like took the paint brush and scratched the car with the paintbrush. 

Reema: Oh god. 


Reema: No one noticed until a few days later…Rachel and Nicole were ready to head back home. So they packed up and brought their things downstairs to the car… 


Rachel: I got my keys, I went outside and I was like, huh, what is that on my door? And I got closer and I’m like, those are scratches. And they were like, spiral circles. 


Reema: Rachel started to panic…she’d bought it brand new a couple years ago. It was a 2019 Honda, custom made in maroon, her favorite color 


Rachey: My heart sank, and then I felt like kind of sweaty shaky. Honestly, I was thinking somebody has seen me at this house for a week, and they’re not used to black people in their neighborhood and somebody is trying to send me a message. Ain’t that [BLEEP]-ed up? 


Reema: But then, it clicked…


Rachel: And I was like, oh my gosh…This is at knee level.  


Reema: the spiral shaped scratches…It had to be Nicole’s nephew.


Rachel: And then I went and got Nicole and I said, you need to come. You need to come look at my car.

Reema: Yeah, it went from like a hate crime to toddler crime. 

Rachel: Right. It truly did. 


Reema: But at the time Rachel was pissed. She takes pride in taking good care of her things… and standing there in the driveway… looking at her car…she couldn’t believe it got all scratched up because Nicole’s dad wasn’t paying attention when he was outside playing with his grandson.

Nicole though didn’t want to make a scene in front of her family


Nicole: At that time, the dialogue in my head was I need to get out of my parents’ house. Let’s talk about this later, because like in all honesty, I was like, okay, a couple scratches, like, great, let’s continue moving our stuff out because I’m like ready to get out of this house.

Rachel: And so because I know Nicole, in my head, I saw that and I felt it, like she was not mad enough, and I was mad. I was mad at what happened, and I was mad that she wasn’t as mad as me.


Reema: The way Nicole saw it, a car is a depreciable asset, so these scratches weren’t that big of a deal. And as you’ll remember Nicole’s pretty conflict-averse, so the thought of confronting her parents about this made her feel sick. But she could see the look on Rachel’s face, so she went inside the house and told her parents what had happened. They apologized and agreed to pay to get the scratches buffed out. 

…which was great…right… problem solved!


Rachel: And then after the first time it rained, the buff job was obsolete 

Reema: Ohhh 

Rachel: because with scratches on a car, 

Reema: So it didn’t work?

Rachel: NO.


Reema: One day….not long after it rained… the two of them went rollerblading… and afterwards they loaded up Rachel’s car with their gear and got inside…

And that’s when Rachel first noticed the scratches were back…but Nicole didn’t notice. Here’s Nicole. 


Nicole: So we got, yeah, we got in the car and then I started to just like talking, like, how was your, how was your blade session? Like, you know, what were your splits? And like, what are we going to do the rest of the day? Like, I was just trying to have a conversation, but she was so quiet. 


Reema: Nicole looks over at her…she can tell something is wrong…


Nicole: She, she bites on her bottom lip in this like particular manner. And so she was biting on her lip and I just like, my stomach got into knots. And I was like, what did I do?

Rachel: And I said, I said the scratches are back on the car, on the door, like I have to see it every time I get in the car.

Nicole: And I said, well, what do you want to do?

Rachel: And that’s when I got pissed. Cause I’m just like, you need to be helping me figure out a solution for this, for this problem. 

Nicole: So I was thinking like, okay, well, do I go back to my dad and say that, like, this didn’t work? Do I go to my brother and say like, your kid scratched my fiance’s car, you need to pay for it? Like, I was just, there’s all these scenarios running through my head.

Rachel: And I was not, I was totally not seeing it from her perspective. I just got mad again. And I said, well, somebody needs to pay to get it fixed.


Reema: They took it to another body shop…and it turns out another buff job wouldn’t cut it…the scratches were too deep. They’d need to take the door off, strip it and repaint it. It was going to cost at least two thousand dollars.


Reema: When you heard that number, what was going through your head. 

Nicole: like, in my mind, when I heard that quote, I was like, that’s 7% of the sticker price. Like that’s a lot for a depreciable asset.


Reema: To be clear, they’ve got savings and they can afford it…but Nicole started doing this math in her head, like ok…. a couple thousand dollars…that’s a mortgage payment, that’s a trip to Mexico, that’s a paycheck. It didn’t seem worth it. 

From Rachel’s perspective it was so clear…Nicole’s parents needed to pay for this.

But she felt like she was toe-ing this fine line: Nicole hadn’t been out to her family for that long, and Rachel was not only the first woman, but the first Black partner she’d brought home…and while Nicole’s family was accepting, Rachel still felt cautious


Rachel: Um, so just noticing that I was the, I was the person that stood out, um, and also that recognizing that we as a couple stand out and that we have challenged her Catholic conservative upbringing a lot. And you know, how many times do you, you know, poke at something, you know, well-intentioned or not for people to be like, “All right, you know, we’ve had enough.” And I’m not saying that her family thinks that like that. 

Reema: Right. 

Rachel: You know, being in the world that we live in, I think like that.


Reema: It all felt so fragile. But this was just the beginning cause the more they fought about it, the more layers they started to pull back, and the more they realized that maybe this isn’t just about the money. That’s after the break. 




Reema: Over the next few months, Nicole and Rachel went back and forth on this and the fights started to take on a familiar rhythm…

Rachel: we were literally having the same conversation over and over again.


Reema: Usually they’d start off like… 


Nicole: is everything okay with you? Like you’re very quiet and you’re biting your lip, like what’s going on? 


Reema: Then Rachel would say something like…

Rachel:  I’m really pissed off that there are scratches on my car still. Every time I go to my car, I see the scratches.

Nicole: I don’t understand why these scratches are a big deal.

Rachel: Just like, be mad for me. Be mad with me please. 

Nicole: like cars are going to get dinged all the time. And why would you spend money to make it look any different? Like it is what it is.

Rachel: I just feel like I’m between a rock and a hard place, because I didn’t do it. I want my car to be fixed.You don’t want to talk to your parents. You don’t want to talk to your brother about it. Obviously we can’t make your nephew pay for it. He’s two. So I just don’t feel like I just, I feel like it’s a lose, lose. 

Nicole: And I mean, I totally get that. And I think the loss that I’m willing to take is if I pay for it, if I make it go away,


Reema: That was Nicole’s solution: to pay for half of it herself. She just wanted to be done with this. 


Nicole: I don’t want you to like, look at the car door or every day and be really upset about it. Um, I want to do what will make it right for you. And we can just leave my family out of it.


Reema: To be honest, I thought this is where the story would end. Rachel would accept Nicole’s offer, they’d get it fixed and the car saga would end. But Rachel didn’t like this solution. 


Reema: why didn’t you want her to go through with paying for it. 

Rachel: I knew she didn’t want to. 

Reema: Yeah. 

Rachel: She was almost saying it like through gritted closed teeth, Like I could see that she wanted to do it for me, but I could also see that she’s thinking about everything that money could be going towards instead of the car. So she, she wanted to, she wants to do it, but she didn’t want to do it.


Reema: Rachel just wanted Nicole to understand and feel what she was feeling. 

But the thing is Rachel herself hadn’t even realized just how deep-rooted her feelings were. Until one day, in the middle of an argument, a painful memory Rachel had never shared came flooding back to her.


Growing up, Rachel’s family didn’t have a lot of money. But when she was in college, her parents wanted to incentivize and reward her for getting good grades, so they told her, you can drive this used family car…


Rachel: the rule was if I had good grades, first semester, I get the car, and I was like, easy, done. I was a great student. I loved school. 


Reema: It wasn’t going to be a brand new car or anything, but it’d be hers…and it’d mean her freedom.


Rachel: But in the midst of my first semester, I got this girlfriend, I ended up deciding it was time for me to come out to my parents.


Reema: So during winter break, Rachel went home and told her parents about her girlfriend.


Rachel: And it was super tense. And my father called me into the living room and he said, “Are you still struggling with your sexuality?” And I said, “Daddy, it’s not a struggle. Like this is who I am.” And he was just like, you know, I wish you well, and you know, the car is staying here. Like you don’t get the car. 


Reema: Rachel had grown up in a super religious household and being gay was something her family couldn’t accept. It completely changed her relationship with them.


Rachel: It really throws them off. They really just cannot understand how we were all raised the same way, we all read the same bible and their sister/daughter ended up a lesbian.


Reema: Rachel’s dad doesn’t really talk to her anymore, and her relationship with her mom isn’t the same. And the car was the symbol of this rejection.


Rachel: Um, so like the car was used as such a, um, bargaining chip and used to almost dehumanize me as after I came out. And it was all bad. 


Reema: And it took her a lot of work to finally get another car… she got a work-study job, she saved up, and then over the course of her college years and early adulthood, she cycled through a few very old, beat up used cars.

Then in 2019, when her 2004 Pontiac Grand Amwas on its last breath, she had a good job, and she decided it was finally time to get a nice car. Something brand new…


Rachel: And I was finally, I felt like I had worked so hard to get to this place in my life where I could buy a car, whatever car I wanted. It was so freeing. 


Reema: And then, not long after she brought home this brand new Honda, a two-year-old scratches it all up.


Rachel: I don’t even think I realized I had all of this like simmering about the car, but that’s why I was so upset that Nicole wasn’t upset because it’s like, I don’t, I just don’t have nice things all the time. And so when I get them, I take care of them, and if somebody else damages them, then it should be on them. And because Nicole is the buffer between her family and me, it was her responsibility. So it was immediately, the ball was in her court and she was just like, Nope, don’t want it. 

Nicole: I think, I think there are layers to this. So I think because of the trauma that’s tied to like cars in general with Rachel and me not having that kind of trauma, I don’t think I would ever have gotten to be as emotional or as like, as strongly moved as she was at that time. And I didn’t know that this happened to her until after she had like sat with this for a while. And like, we had multiple conversations about the scratches on the car. Um, it was like we were just uncovering some of these layers. 


Reema: And there were layers for Nicole, too. Yeah, she thought spending money on cars was kind of pointless, but she was also scared what a confrontation with her family might bring up


Nicole: I make myself small in general. I don’t like to take up space. And so having something happen where it’s my girlfriend’s car, like I don’t… I already came out to my parents. I already kind of hurt their concept of what a daughter would be like. They’ve always, I’m sure, imagined me walking down the aisle and marrying a man and having a bunch of kids and all of that. Well now, like I’m not only gay, but now I’m dating a Black person, and that probably rocked their world a bunch because like they’re not used to having to like own their racism and own their privilege. So just, it, it just made me shrink even more. And it made me want to say, okay, like, these are the types of unforeseen circumstances that is why I save like, you know, eight months of expenses because I can, I can pay for this door and keep myself less humiliated or less like broken apart, I guess.


Reema: It’s been months since all of this unfolded, and despite all their conversations, the tension, the back and forth, it’s not really 100 percent resolved. 

Even during our interview, Nicole interrupts at one point to re-extend her offer…


Nicole: this is live like right now in the moment, Reema, like, Rachel, if you do want me to still put money forth towards the car to get it fixed, like that offer still stands. Like that offer has never been off the table. I’ve never taken it off the table. 


Reema: When I ask Rachel what she makes of this offer now, she kinda deflects. She still feels the same way she did a few months back…it’s always been more important to her that she feels understood. 


Rachel: I love Nicole so much because she gave me opportunity after opportunity. She gave me to vent about it, to have my feelings about it, to talk to me about it. And she never ever put herself in the position to be right. And truly it wasn’t about me being right. And that’s what made it so hard. It was, it was just the emotion. It was, “I see what you’re saying. This is how I feel. I get both of them. Where do I go from here?” And I was like, she means more to me than this car. Like that was probably the, the moment of realization realization where I was like it really isn’t that deep. I said alright, I can live with the scratches with this car. 

One thing that did help is when I went to the body shop to get a quote, he said, “Well, if you don’t go through a touchless carwash, then you have a million scratches on your car already.” And I was like, “What?” And he said, “Yeah,” he said, “lean your head this way and tilt it this way.” And there are literally a million scratches on my car from the brushes, from the carwash.

Reema: Oh wow. So one big analogy. Like it’s all about perspective. 

Nicole: Right. Truly. And it, and because I’m like committed to her, I’ll wait however long until we both get perspective on something.

Rachel: I trust, I trust Nicole with the most vulnerable sides of me and I, and I trust her to hear me to give me space. And to hear me again if I need it. And, um, that’s priceless.

Nicole: you’re cute, Rachel.  


Reema: So money fights are something I wanna keep exploring on the show, cause really even though a lot of these conversations happen behind closed doors, we’re all having them, we’re all going through it. Like I mentioned, Rachel and Nicole are listeners of the show, and we reached out to some more folks to hear what kinda fights they’ve been getting into…


Matt: I think the money fight we keep having is, I guess, it’s the you borrowing money, right, from me. Right. And I don’t feel like I have enough money to spend on myself. 

Lianna: Right. And then my perspective is that you always get paid back. Right?

Matt: It’s just hard when we’re, we’re both kind of living paycheck to paycheck, you know? 


Reema: And sometimes the fights aren’t over these big, contentious things…like maybe you just wish your spouse would stop buying bags and bags of chips…


Arielle: He trails down every single aisle, putting as much junk food in the cart as he can, while I stick to the list rigidly and try and put back whatever he’s trying to get, because we’re on a budget. There is a lot of bickering over that.


Reema: And then other times the hard part is just communicating…


Ellen: I can talk about money pretty much any time of day. And it doesn’t really get under my skin, but when I sometimes bring up money, he says, ah, that’s so stressful. And I can’t talk about that.


Reema: So now this is where I ask you all…if you wanna share your money fight. It can be a recurring disagreement or a really memorable one, it can be super serious or silly, and it doesn’t even have to be with a partner, it can be with a friend or relative….or your boss, if you wanna get really messy idk.

Whatever it is….you can feel free to shoot me and the team a note…we’re at


Alright before we go, I have an update for you all about Rachel and Nicole. Their story originally aired in 2022, so we reached out recently to see how they’re doing today… 

And they told us they’ve been busy lately cause they’re planning a destination wedding in Mexico for later this year, which they’re very excited about. 

Meanwhile, Rachel wanted to share that she really doesn’t love her car as much anymore… in fact, she’s considering upgrading, if she can afford it. She’s been driving down to Nashville a lot more, since she’s on better terms with her parents now, and the Honda compact is starting to feel… well, just a little too compact. And she says she’s glad she let the toddler crime situation go, because life is too short.  

Nicole and Rachel also told us that they haven’t had any more big money fights since we last talked. They agreed to buy a house before getting married, because they wanted their savings to go toward a down payment first… which ended up being the right call for them, since interest rates have shot up since they signed the mortgage. And in the last couple years, they decided not to have any kids of their own, partly cause of how expensive it is.

Today, They’re confident about how they handle money in their relationship, and it feels like they’re both on the same page when it comes to financial priorities. As Nicole told us, “Ain’t nobody got time for money fights!!!”


Alright that’s all for our show this week. Be sure to check out our newsletter by the way.. Every Friday we share a little story or some reflections, also some “Uncomfortable” reading recs, all stuff you won’t hear on the show. A few weeks ago we talked about how we’re budgeting without the app Mint, which shut down last year. You all had a lot of feedback and ideas, and we collected them all in this week’s newsletter. Sign up at


This episode was lead-produced by Hayley Hershman… and hosted by me, Reema Khrais.

With help from producers Camilla Kerwin and Phoebe Unterman.

This episode was edited by Karen Duffin, with help from Caitlin Esch.

Sound design and audio engineering by Drew Jostad. 

Our senior producer is Zoë Saunders.

Bridget Bodnar is Marketplace’s Director of Podcasts.

Francesca Levy is the Executive Director of Digital.

Neal Scarbrough is Vice President and General Manager of Marketplace.

And our theme music is by Wonderly.


Alright, I will catch y’all next week…


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