In due course, Stacy was elected Homecoming Queen.
It was no great surprise, either to her or to anyone else. The only possible competition - Ashley Peters - had more or less dropped out of the race in the last month. Ashley no longer moved in the kinds of social circles from which Homecoming Queens were inevitably chosen. Stacy, for all of her sexual activities at Greenwood over the previous nine months, still enjoyed at least the appearance of respectability. While the word was out among most of the guys at school (and more than a few of the girls) that Stacy was a cocksucking slut, nothing could really be proved, particularly to those who mattered: the teachers and parents. And, if Stacy dressed a little more daringly during the course of her senior year and went out on lots of dates, well... there was nothing really wrong with that as long as she kept her marks up in school (and her grades in her final year were the highest of any student ever to attend Greenwood).
So, a little wildness - a little rebelliousness - was to be expected and tolerated. She was a teenager, after all.
Indeed, her now well-known willingness to fuck and suck just about any guy in school actually helped her get elected, in an odd sort of way. There were six male students on the Grad Committee, which selected each year's Homecoming Queen. Stacy had fucked two of them during the course of the year, and - just before the crucial election - had given each of the six a blowjob out in the school parking lot.
Sharon's "suggestion." But Stacy didn't really mind too much at this point. After some of the things that had happened to her over the course of the school year, giving blowjobs in a parking lot was almost relaxing. She was more or less used (or at least resigned) to the taste of cock in her mouth, and only two of the guys actually made her swallow. She hated that. Against her will, she found herself almost thankful that they only wanted to fuck her mouth. Since the incident at the second football party, she had found herself once again unable to get excited when having sex.
Just like in the beginning.
The fourth of the six guys she sucked off was the long-awaited number sixty-five.
She hadn't even realized it at the time. It wasn't until she made her regular report to Gary that he had pointed this out to her. Number sixty-five! She was done; finished; no-longer-a-sex- toy. It was a dazed and confused Stacy who had admitted Gary and Sharon to her house later that same afternoon. She had been almost certain that they would not release her as they had promised, but that seemed to be exactly what was happening. Right after school, the two blackmailers brought over a small box of material - four videotapes and a large number of still pictures - and handed them over without comment. Gary even gave her advance copies of her final exams. She had almost forgotten about them, and was certainly not prepared. She was so surprised, she found herself feeling genuinely thankful.
That feeling, however, only lasted until they had gone and she had a chance to go through the material. She quickly re-discovered that familiar sense of loathing for her (former) tormentors.
Before the hour was up, she had burned the pictures and the videotape lay in crumpled ribbons at her feet. No one was ever going to have that kind of power over her again! She had also ripped off the charm bracelet, but in doing so had involuntarily sent the shiny "F"s sailing loose across her bedroom. She had located many of them, but they still turned up once in a while, in a pillow or under a seat cushion.
The remaining two weeks of school shot by. Exams were held the week of the 21st of June. With the aid of the stolen exam papers, the first four exams were a breeze. During the fifth exam, however...
Stacy stared down at the exam paper, eyes widening with shock. This wasn't the test she had prepared! Desperate, she re- read the questions, even flipping the paper over the make certain that she hadn't missed something. Nothing. The questions didn't even begin to resemble those that Gary had supplied her with.
Gary! This must be his idea of a joke. She felt tears of rage well up inside her and spill over onto her face, but there was nothing she could do about it now. Or ever, for that matter. She knew that she lacked the will to confront Gary with this latest torment. Besides, what could she do about it? She doubted that the school authorities would have much sympathy for her plight.
Feeling sick to her stomach, she got down to work, answering the questions as best she could. By the end of the exam, she felt that she had done pretty well, despite her lack of preparation; the material wasn't that difficult, and she had always considered herself smarter than most of the other students at Greenwood anyway...
The final two exams went fine; the supplied exam papers matched exactly the ones supplied to her by Gary. Stacy was almost willing to believe that the incident had been an honest mistake on Gary's part. Almost.
Not that it mattered.
It had now been over a week since she had fucked anybody. A whole, wonderful week of doing and saying whatever she wanted! She'd had to refuse quite a number of "offers", but that was turning out to be almost enjoyable. It gave her no small amount of satisfaction to let those jerks know exactly what she thought about them. In fact, she was beginning to feel more and more like her old self every day.
The same, however, could not be said of Ashley. She was a new person. Physically, the change was obvious. Gone was the long, brown hair and girlish clothing. Instead, she now sported a mannish crew cut, combed back and gelled on top and had gotten both of her ears triple-pierced. She even wore a shiny, silver stud in her nose. The clothing was different too. No more dresses and frilly blouses; she now basically wore only black jeans and dark tee-shirts. Just the same as Karen.
The changes were more than just physical. After the night of the football party at BCN, Ashley had quickly drifted away from her old group of friends and started spending all of her time with Karen. Eventually, they became inseparable, and could often be seen holding hands and even - the rumour went - kissing in the woods behind the school. Ashley soon joined her girlfriend in social isolation, but she didn't seem to mind much. Neither did Karen.
On the Monday of the last week of school, Stacy had resolved herself to attempt to talk to her old friend, but when she tried to locate her, she quickly found out that Ashley and Karen had left school a week early (right after exams) to go on a camping trip together. Ashley's puzzled mother had confided to Stacy that Ashley had withdrawn her application for a position at a major university back east and, over the strenuous objections of her father, had instead decided to attend college at BCN next year. Her parents were both mystified at this change of plans.
Stacy could have told her why, but kept her silence. Karen had FAILED AND HAD one more year of highschool in Bakersville...
"Excuse me, Ms. Peabody?"
Stacy stood in front of the secretary's desk, clutching the pink slip which had informed her of the principal's wish to see her "immediately". The last week of classes was more of a formality than anything else - checking in books and materials - so there had been no problem in leaving the class to answer the principal's summons. His secretary, a tall, thin women with her gray hair pulled back in a severe bun at the back of her head, took the slip and stared at it.
"And you are Stacy Richards?"
The older woman stared suspiciously at the teenager, as if suspecting her of being an imposter.
'Yeah,' Stacy thought to herself sarcastically, 'like I really want to be here'.
"Yes," she answered politely. "Dr. Grossman wants to see me?"
'Probably something about being this year's Homecoming Queen,' she mused.
"So it would appear." The secretary picked up the phone, pushed a button and spoke into it.
"A Stacy Richards here to see you, sir." There were a few moments of silence and then she nodded briskly.
"Go right in; he's expecting you."
Stacy entered the principal's large office. It was set in the back of the school building, giving it a good view of the playing fields and then the forest stretching out behind Greenwood. The principal, Dr. Randall Grossman, sat behind a large oak desk. He had short, jet black hair which had recently begun the long retreat up his forehead. His large, dark eyes peered out from behind his bifocals. Despite this seemingly mild appearance, the principal had a strong physical presence about him. He had experienced little or no trouble in intimidating the students (and staff, for that matter) into compliance with his policies. As a result of his abilities, Greenwood regularly had one of the highest academic records in the state.
The students, of course, hated and feared him, and Stacy was no exception. Grossman did not hesitate to expel a student when he saw the need and had even, on one memorable and well- publicized occasion, been instrumental in the criminal conviction of a student who had been caught with a stolen exam paper. Stacy, perhaps better than anyone, remembered this.
"Miss Richards." His voice was high; surprisingly effeminate. "Please... have a seat."
Stacy sat as the school principal opened a white folder and removed a sheet of paper from it. He glanced at the form and then looked up at her.
"Stacy," he began, "your marks this year have been the best we've ever seen from a student at Greenwood. I've personally never come across such a consistently brilliant student."
"Thank you," Stacy said, breathing a small sigh of relief. She hadn't been expecting trouble, but you never knew.
"That's why I was so surprised at your History test," the principal continued.
"History 12," he explained, handing the piece of paper over to her. It was the cover sheet of her exam paper in the History class; the one Gary had given her the wrong paper for. It had a "49" marked on top of it in bright red pen.
Stacy felt like she was going to throw up. That was a failing grade. Her hand trembled as she held the sheet. After everything that had happened to her this year; and now...
"Summer school," Dr. Grossman said, as if reading her mind. "If you fail a course, you have to make it up over the summer." He stared at her as she turned pale. "You know that, don't you?"
White as a sheet, Stacy nodded, not trusting herself to speak.
A tiny smile played across Dr. Grossman's mild face as he noted the girl's reactions. They were perfect; and so was she. A real find. Ever since Mr. Edgar's tearful confession the previous week, Grossman had been looking forward to this moment. He had always fantasized about something like this - getting control of one of the beautiful young sluts in his school and imposing his "tastes" on one of them - but he had never dared try it before now. There was too much at risk: his job, his career, his reputation; and there was always The Club whenever he felt the need to indulge himself.
The Club! What wonderful things they could think of to do with this teenage slut; what wonderful things they WOULD do to her... if his plan worked.
And it should. It should work. If Edgar's description of events was at all accurate, there was every reason to believe that his plan would unfold exactly as he hoped. First, however, he wanted to test the water. See how she reacted...
Stacy thought quickly. She couldn't go to summer school. She just couldn't! Taking a deep breath, the teenager regained control of herself and looked over at the principal. He sat staring at her appraisingly. Maybe. It worked with Edgar; why not with...
"Young lady," he said sternly, breaking the silence, "is there anything you wish to say or... do to convince me to exercise my discretionary powers in favour of giving you a passing grade."
He stared at her from behind his bifocals.
"I can do that, you know."
Stacy wasn't stupid. She knew what he was talking about.
"S-sir," she stammered, flushing red. "I'll do whatever I have to do to pass; whatever you w-want." The blonde teenager fought down the bile which rose in her lovely throat. She was supposed to be finished with this bullshit.
Dr. Grossman raised an eyebrow. "Anything?"
"Yes sir," she answered quietly.
They understood each other.
Moving suddenly, the school principal leaned forward in his chair and punched a button on his intercom.
"Ms. Peabody," he ordered. "Hold all my calls and visitors for the next two hours. And call Gardner to the office. He can wait out there." The secretary acknowledged the orders.
Dr. Grossman sat back in his chair and stared over at the trembling teenager. She looked so delicious, sitting there in her tight jeans and pink top, her beautiful blonde hair done up in a long braid.
"OK Stacy," he said. "Here's the deal." He got to his feet and walked slowly across the room towards her.
"Stand up against the desk."
She did as ordered. The large oak desk came up to just below her crotch.
"Now, bend over and grab these drawer handles."
Once again, Stacy did as ordered. She was now bent over the desktop, stretched out with her hands just reaching the two drawer handles.
"Now," the principal continued, running his gaze appreciatively up and down her body "if you can hold that position for the next two hours, you pass. But if, for any reason, you let go of those handles... well, we'll be seeing you at summer school. Do you understand?"
"Yes sir," Stacy answered quietly. Her fingers curled tightly around the small metal handles as she prepared herself for the worst. A tear trickled down one cheek and fell onto the desktop. She had a pretty good idea of what would soon be happening...
Harold Gardner was a big man. He was also a black man. He worked as a janitor and general handyman at Greenwood High, a position he had held ever since he had been personally hired by the school principal, Dr. Grossman. He and Grossman went back a long ways. They had similar tastes in certain... activities, and both enjoyed membership in an exclusive Club. When Gardner had lost his job at City Hall because of his criminal record, Grossman had been happy to take him in and provide him with employment. No blackmail or anything like that; just one friend doing another friend a favour.
Gardner looked over at Ms. Peabody and smiled. The secretary looked over and acknowledged his smile. She too was a personal appointee of Dr. Grossman and, like Gardner, she was a member of the Club. Grossman had discussed his plans for Stacy with her a couple of days earlier and, although she was somewhat concerned about the risks, she had agreed to go along with it. If it worked...
A rhythmic slapping sound came from the principal's office. It had been going on for about twenty minutes now, and showed no sign of abating. Gardner and Peabody looked at each other and smirked; they had a pretty good idea of what was happening in there.
Five minutes later, the sound stopped. The door to the principal's office opened and Grossman looked out. His face was flushed red, and damp with sweat.
"Ah, Mr. Gardner," he said. "I wonder if you could help me with a little 'matter' in here."
"Ah'm sure ah can," Gardner answered, getting to his feet.
"Is there anything I can do," Peabody asked hopefully.
Grossman shook his head.
"I'm afraid I need you out here," he answered. "You have to hold my calls and keep people out of the office for the next little while. Later though..."
He smiled promised much as he closed the door.
Ms. Peabody shivered and reached one hand down to massage her pussy as she imagined what was going on in the office.
Gardner didn't have to imagine any more.
The blonde slut (as he thought of her) was lying across the oak desk, grasping onto a couple of drawer handles as if her life depended upon it. The janitor was somewhat surprised to see that she was not tied down in any way, but said nothing. Grossman knew what he was doing.
Her jeans and panties were down around her ankles, and her tight teenage ass was beet red from the spanking the principal had been administering to her for the last half hour or so.
"Harold," Grossman said, puffing slightly from his exertions. "Stacy here was just saying how much she fancied sucking on a black cock while I spanked her." He brought his hand down sharply on the teenager's quivering ass.
"Isn't that right Miss Richards?"
Stacy flinched and squirmed when he hit her, but her hands remained tight around the door handles.
"Y-yes sir," she answered, gritting her teeth against the pain. "I'm afraid I m-might make too much noise while... while being spanked..."
Stacy groaned with humiliation.
"S-sir..." This was addressed to the janitor. "Would you put your cock in my mouth please? If I have a c-cock to suck on... I won't make so much n-noise."
The blonde teenager squirmed on the desk as Grossman fondled her beet red ass.
"Well Harold," the principal asked. "Will you help her out?"
Gardner, his cock already straining against his overalls, quickly agreed. In a flash, he was seated behind Grossman's desk, pulling out his large, black cock and feeding it to the crying teenager as bent over in the desk in front of him. She gagged, but soon accommodated it in her mouth.
"Suck it, bitch," he ordered, cuffing her on the side of the face. Obediently, she began to bob her head up and down. Hands still firmly gripping the drawer handles, she began to slurp hungrily at his cock. She was good.
"Feels good, you little cocksucker," he complimented her. "You've sucked plenty of cock before."
Stacy groaned in humiliation as she slid her mouth up and down on his cock, but didn't pull away.
She just kept sucking.
Even when Grossman continued the spanking, this time using a wooden yardstick, whacking away at her ass until it was bruised red and blue. Even when Gardner quickly came, spurting cum into her sucking mouth and down her throat; she just sucked him dry and then kept on sucking as he became hard again. Even when Grossman, panting and gasping from his sadistic exertions, finally stopped whacking her flaming bottom with the yardstick and jammed his near-bursting cock first into her dry cunt, and then into her tight asshole. She just kept sucking and squirming until finally, both men let loose, flooding her with cum from both ends.
Even then, she just kept sucking until finally Gardner pulled out of her mouth.
Grossman, exhausted, leaned against the desk. His face had turned an alarming shade of red, but there was a vicious smile on his face. "OK," he said. "That's enough. You can let go now."
Stacy tried, but her hands were so tightly wrapped around the handles that it took her several seconds to tear them loose. Groaning with pain and humiliation, she brought one hand up and wiped ineffectually at the glistening sperm which covered her lower face. The two men watched as she then bent over and slowly pulled her panties and then jeans over her shining red ass, covering the thin trail of sperm which trickled down her thigh.
Finally, she was dressed. She turned her tear-stained face towards the principal.
"T-the test," she mumbled, dazed with pain.
Grossman reached over, grabbed a pen and wrote a large "Pass" on top of it.
"Well done, Stacy," he congratulated her, still gasping. "I just wish all of the students here at Greenwood were as dedicated as you are."
Stacy ignored the taunt. Moving carefully, she turned and limped out of the office.
"Jesus," Gardner muttered. "Yer jus' gonna let her walk outta here like that? What a loss. Everyone in the Club will wanna hear 'bout..."
"The Club will meet her soon enough," Grossman chuckled, reaching into a desk drawer and pulling out a cassette tape. "We're not done with her yet..."
Friday, the second of July.
The last day of school at Greenwood High.
The school seemed quiet, already half-deserted as a good proportion of the students were skipping the final hours in favour of starting their summer holiday a day early. Really, the only reason to attend the last day was to pick up the school yearbook and say goodbye to one's friends. The yearbook was mailed out anyway, and, with more kids on the beach than in the school, there was no real reason to say goodbye.
Stacy Richards walked slowly along the quiet hallway, rucksack full of gym equipment in one hand and school yearbook in the other. Still in pain from the severe spanking administered to her earlier in the week, she would have preferred to have stayed at home, but her duties as a Rec Instructor had required her presence at school to check through and store the class sports equipment. Actually, she would have preferred to be on the beach with her friends, but her ass was in no shape for a swimsuit. Maybe in a couple of weeks, but not now.
She walked up to her locker and began to dial the combination on the lock when she became aware of a giggling behind her. Turning, she saw three girls, from a lower grade, looking at her and laughing. One of them was pointing to an open yearbook.
"What's so funny?" she asked, angry. She wasn't used to being treated this way by her social inferiors at school. Unintimidated, the girls just laughed and continued down the hall.
Puzzled, she watched them go. What was going on? Stacy looked around. Suddenly paranoid, she noticed that others were looking at her as well. Some of them were just grinning at her while others flipped through their yearbooks, laughing and whispering. The seemingly deserted school hallway now seemed full of laughing, whispering students. What was happening?
Locker forgotten, Stacy placed her rucksack on the floor and opened the yearbook. Everything seemed normal as she flipped quickly through the book; just the typical high school yearbook...
The page flipped open to the sports section.
"Oh god..." Stacy sagged up against her locker, suddenly weak.
WOULD STACY RICHARDS PLEASE REPORT TO THE PRINCIPAL'S OFFICE (the PA system)
Stacy ignored it, staring at the picture which covered half a page. It was under the heading "Swim Club", but rather than the entire team, it just displayed Stacy. She was posed in a swimsuit; one of the too-small swimsuits Sharon had forced her to wear during the second photo session. The suit had been soaked, and her nipples clearly showed through the thin fabric of the suit as she knelt, knees widely spread, licking a large, pink dildo and staring seductively at the camera.
That bastard. She didn't know how he had managed it, but it was him alright. Panicking, she began to turn the pages to the "R" section of the grade twelves. If he had put that picture in the sports section, what had he...
It was her picture; and she recognized it. She was dressed in the tight, pink rubber dress Sharon had produced for the first photo session, leaning forward, hands pushing up her breasts and a look of passion - no, lust - on her beautiful face. She looked like a complete slut.
Her stunned gaze slipped down to the text below the picture: 'Girl most likely to... do just about anything.' Under that was a tiny "happy-face" with the sentence 'I fucked Stacy Richards' beside it. Horrified, the panicking teenager scanned the remaining pictures on the page. Under the photograph of Terry Rhymer was three of the "happy-faces"; she had fucked him three times during the year. The pages of the book flipped through her fingers, coming to rest in the grade eight section; there were rows and rows of "happy-faces" under Tim Myers' picture.
The yearbook slid out of her numb fingers and dropped to the floor as the full realization of what had happened sunk into her. During the course of her torment, she had been sustained by one goal: to keep what was happening secret - to maintain her position at Greenwood. Now...
There must be a way. Most of the yearbooks hadn't been given out yet. If she acted quickly, she could stop the mailout and maybe even get most if not all of the books recalled.
WOULD STACY RICHARDS PLEASE REPORT TO THE PRINCIPAL'S OFFICE! (the PA system)
She didn't even hear it.
Moving as fast as she could, she raced through the combination on her locker and jerked it open, determined to stow the rucksack and get to the principal's office as soon as possible. As she did so, however, a small stack of material - glossy magazines - slid out onto the hallway floor. Alarmed, Stacy reached down and picked one up. It was a porn magazine, entitled CUMSHOT and it had...
For the second time in as many minutes Stacy felt herself unable to breath as panic swept through her body. She was on the cover of the magazine! The full-colour photograph featured a sharp close-up of her face as she lapped hungrily at a string of cum running from her mouth to a large cock. Neil's cock, she realized, recognizing the scene.
It was another student - Stephanie Bowers; Stacy had stolen her boyfriend in grade ten. The girl bent over to pick up a magazine: YOUNG THINGS.
"Give me that," Stacy yelled, inadvertently attracting the attention of a number of other nearby students. She grabbed the magazine out of the other girl's hand and tossed it into her locker. Then she dropped to her knees and gathered up the remaining publications - TEENAGE SLUTS, CUMHUNGRY - and likewise put them away.
WOULD STACY RICHARDS PLEASE REPORT TO THE PRINCIPAL'S OFFICE! (the PA system)
She didn't even notice it.
Stacy slammed the locker shut and locked it. A small crowd of students had gathered around to see what the fuss was, but the magazines were safely locked away.
"Fuck off," she cried at them, tears running down her face. They watched silently as she ran off in the direction of the main office. She had to get those yearbooks recalled!
Stephanie watched her go, puzzled. Usually Stacy was so cool; so superior. What had happened to her? She gazed speculatively at Stacy's locker. It looked like she'd never...
Wait a moment.
She reached into her pocket and pulled out a small slip of paper with three numbers on it. She had found it stuffed into her locker that morning. The numbers looked like combination numbers. Could it be? As she moved forward to try it out, she noticed two or three of the other students in the crowd were also pulling out small pieces of paper and looking at them. With mounting excitement, Stephanie began to enter the numbers...
Stacy barged through the door and charged into the school head office. No one was there. Frantic, she ran behind the counter and into the administrative section of the school. There must be someone...
"There you are!"
It was Ms. Peabody. She walked angrily towards the panicked teenager. "We've been calling you to the office for ten minutes now. Are you deaf?"
"Ms. Peabody," Stacy began, ignoring the secretary's tirade, "you've got to recall the yearbooks. Someone has..."
She was cut off as Ms. Peabody grabbed her by the ear and began dragging her down the hall towards the principal's office.
"Oww..." Stacy stumbled along behind her, trying to pull away but the pain was too much. Finally, they arrived at the office. The secretary knocked on the door and then pushed it open without waiting for an acknowledgment. She used her grip on Stacy's reddened ear to propel the reluctant teenager into the office and then entered behind her, closing the door.
Rubbing her ear, Stacy looked around. Dr. Grossman sat behind the desk, a serious look on his face.
"Stacy," he said, "sit down."
"Sir," Stacy began breathlessly, "The yearbook... you have to..."
Startled, Stacy fell silent and dropped into the seat directly opposite the desk.
"This is a very serious matter," the principal explained grimly. "I've just had some important evidence brought to my attention regarding your academic performance this year."
Stacy flinched as she felt a hand at her shoulder. It was Ms. Peabody, standing behind the chair.
"I found this cassette tape in my mailbox," Grossman continued, pulling a small tape deck out of his desk. "Listen."
He punched the play button. Stacy listened. Almost at once, she heard the sound of her own voice:
<"I heard you have a copy of next week's English exam. Is that true?"
"Why do you want to know?">
Stacy felt an absurd sense of deja vu as she listened in panicked disbelief.
<"I want a copy of that exam. I need it for this weekend."
"Stacy, you mean you want a copy of a stolen exam paper so you can cheat on next Monday's English test."
"Yes. I need it to pass the exam... I'll pay money. How about $100? Please?"
"Alright, I'll sell you the stolen exam paper for $100. Will that be all, Stacy, or do you want any more exams? I can probably get whatever you want."
"That sounds great. I'll buy whatever you can get for the classes I'm in. $100 a paper."
"It's a deal. Meet me tomorrow after school in the woodworking shop. It should be deserted on Friday afternoon... Don't forget the money.">
The hissing stopped for a second as the tape fell silent. Stacy struggled to get to her feet, but the secretary held her down, her hand firmly pressing down on the teenager's shoulder.
"There's more," she whispered menacingly.
Stacy knew that. She knew exactly what was coming. Trembling, she listened as the voices began once again:
<"Well," her voice again, "Do you have it?"
"I've got it. One stolen English exam paper for Stacy Richards. And my money?">
There was a brief moment of silence, and they the sound of paper being crinkled.
<"It's all there; you don't have to worry about that... now or in the future."
"Fine, It's all yours."
The voices fell silent, and she heard a door slam: the shop door slamming when she left the room. The hiss slowly faded as the recording came to halt.
Stacy went limp, yearbook forgotten; magazines forgotten... Nothing mattered anymore. How could that one incident of cheating on the math test have brought her to this? She brought her hands up to cover her face.
The school principal hit the "stop" button. He looked over at her, struggling to hold back a smile.
"I think you know what this means young lady," he told her.
She knew. Oh... she knew.
Ms. Peabody, still keeping her hand firmly on the blonde teenager's shoulder, bent down put her lips to Stacy's ear.
"Summerschool," she whispered. Her tongue flicked out and licked at Stacy's ear.
"I'm sure," Dr. Grossman continued, watching with glee as his secretary slid her hands down and began mauling the breasts of the unresisting teenager, "that this summer will be a learning experience for all of us..."