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Gooney87

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Joined
Dec 1, 2019
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54
Location
The Netherlands
Chapter 13 - Sleep deprived

“Khamatova, today please.” The dark-haired doctor’s assistant stares off into space as the older physician waves his hand in front of her face. No reaction from the girl.

“Hello? Earth to Natalya?” Nothing. The gray man pokes his assistant in her side. She jolts upright and snaps back.

“I’m sorry comrade Doctor. What did you say?” Startled she tries to shake her last thought.

“That if at all possible I would like a bit of dressing for this man’s arm. But, I’ve gone and fetched it from the trolley myself, so thank you for that. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to support this man’s arm with one hand while reaching all the way over there and grabbing that thing that’s right next to you, all the while trying not to stab myself with the numerous small and pointy objects here.” he responds sarcastically. “Truly, a life-altering experience.”

Natalya averts her eyes. The biting sarcasm of her superior hits home. She gets up, helps him clean up and fill in the required paperwork. That was the second time today she zoned out like that.

“Natalya Ivanovna, can I speak to you in my office in a minute?” The doctor looks at her over the rim of his glasses.

She knows that look, the same look a longue patient gets when they light up another Беломорканал from a fresh pack as they leave the practice, or a frost-bitten drunkard when ultimately they start reaching for the bottle again. That look of ultimate disapproval. The young man in the seat gives Natalya a sad look as she finishes up the dressing on his arm. He knows what’s coming for her.

“There. Now stay off that motorcycle of yours, I don’t want to see you all scraped up here again.” With a cleverly faked smile she sends him off. As he leaves she remains seated on the stool, gathering courage to get up face the music in the cramped office to the back.

“Natalya Ivanovna, when a superior asks you to perform, you perform. It’s that simple. All medical science revolves around the tools being sharp and accurate. And you, comrade Khamatova, are one of those tools. Now; can I rely on you?” says the doctor as he leans back in his large, comfortable chair in his office.

“I apologize comrade Doctor.” Natalya keeps her eyes low, scared of the wrath of her superior. “I shall try to anticipate and meet your demands in the future, so that I may be of use to the USSR once again.”

The older man looks at her, tilting his head sidways. This is not the Natalya Khamatova he has worked with for a few years. That Natalya Khamatova is far more feisty, and not as easily impressed with the stifled and bureaucratic language he sometimes has to employ as a physician of a large inner-city hospital.

“Now what is going on with you? For the last couple of days you’ve been absent-minded, you were late this morning, and I’m pretty sure you were crying in the bathroom yesterday. Are you sleeping well? I can prescribe you something for that, you know?” His voice softens, almost like a concerned father talking to his daughter.

“To be honest, comrade Doctor, no. I haven’t been sleeping well at all. My girlfr..roommate left abruptly a week ago, left no trace or anything, just went. Gone. I have no idea where she is. I’ve been trying to file her as a Missing Person for days but the police won’t help me as she’s not exactly fully legally here… So yeah, I sleep like crap, the house is a mess - more so than usual - and I’ve come to the conclusion I can’t even boil a pot of water without becoming a fire hazard.”

“That fat German girl who has been here once or twice for that nasty wound on her leg and the bleeding in her hypogastrium? I didn’t know you two shared an apartment. But then, this is 1994 and I suppose that’s what you youngsters do these days. But as your doctor I’d advise you to put your well being first. Without sleep, the brain cannot heal and the body suffers. After work, go to the Gastronom, pick up a bottle of vodka. Can be the bad stuff; not important, and eggs. When you get home you pour the vodka and the egg white in a shaker, add a bit of lavender to the mix and you will sleep like a ditya. Tomorrow you’ll feel much better, and you will then go out and find yourself a new roommate, da? That German girl will be fine. She’s a fighter. Remember when she wouldn’t allow me to anethise her when she was here for that nasty infection? She’ll be fine, wherever she might be.”

Natalya nods. Getting drunk on doctor’s orders. Welcome to Moscow. It feels like in the Soviet Union the entirety of medical science revolves around alcohol, saunas, and ice water. First you sweat it off, then you get drunk, followed by a dip in a frozen lake. If you’re still suffering after that it’s probably chronic and you’re going to have to learn to live with it, for however long that lasts.

As the evening falls early in november, Natalya has to battle the crowds on their way to get products from the Gastronom near her flat. She can’t help but notice that most of the shelves are empty. Where did Nina get all that food from every time, she wonders as she kicks the front door while balancing a bag of groceries on one hand and wrestling with the lock using her other hand. This was all so much easier when Nina was around to help. It had been years since Natalya had seen the inside of a grocery store, normally Nina would take care of those things leaving Natalya free to collapse onto a chair after work. She sighs as the door opens. She clears out a spot on the table next to the large cardboard box she hauled up from the downstairs storage earlier that day, and plops down the groceries. Piece by piece she takes the things she’s bought out of the brown paper bag, doing her best to ignore the large box. She’s afraid of the contents. Afraid of what she’ll find in it.

“Lessee. So, we take some vodka…” she mumbles to herself as she unscrews the metal cap from the bottle. She recoils from the smell. It smells like isopropyl alcohol. “...the cheap stuff, clearly. Some honey syrup, heavy cream, the white of an egg…” She throws the ingredients in a large cup she’s designated as her shaker. “But how in Leninsname am I to get the white of an egg in there?” She studies the egg. “If I break the thing everything is going to come pouring out, right?” She remembers being laughed at by the babushkas in the store when she asked for all-white eggs without yolk.
Discouraged, she puts the cup on the countertop and grabs the bottle of vodka. She closes her eyes as she takes a swig. The alcohol tastes just as bad as it smells, burning its way down her esophagus.
“I mean, I’d ask Ninachen. She’d know.” she says as she tears up. Still holding the bottle of vodka she slides down on the floor, staring into an empty apartment. The smell of cooking starts wafting through the building as every family around her gathers around in the kitchen for dinner.
Softly, Natalya starts sobbing in defeat.
 

Gooney87

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Joined
Dec 1, 2019
Messages
54
Location
The Netherlands
Jörg wakes up with a jolt as sounds coming from the kitchen drift into his bedroom. A burglar? Here, in Kreuzberg? He blinks a few times, and looks at the luminescent dial of his watch. The softly lit green numbers tell him it’s really, really early. Quietly he gets out of bed and slowly opens his bedroom door. In the kitchen opposite his bedroom the lights are on, and there’s a woman in a wide, but somehow snug-fitting nightgown humming and fabricating something edible. Jörg shakes his head. Of course there’s no intruder, you offered your couch to this girl to crash on, remember?
In the light of the kitchen he can see the contours of her voluptuous body in the nightgown. She’s rotating her wide hips to the beat of the softly-hummed song, swaying a large and unrestrained breast in and out of view, jiggling merrily as she moves and reaches for things in the small kitchen. She turns slightly and catches him in the door opening.

“Hey du, couldn’t sleep either?” she asks.

Her voice is soft and feminine, hushed in the darkness of the night. It sounds like an angelic chorus for someone who has been living on his own for the better part of the 1990s.

“I was sleeping just fine,” he replies “...but I’m not used to someone cooking up something-or-another in the middle of the night. And while we’re on that subject, what are you making anyway?”

Nina turns around to face Jörg, who is trying his utmost best to not notice Nina’s lack of bra underneath the snug nightgown. A difficult task seeing as how the nightgown can be most generously described as ‘at least one size too small in certain areas’ to contain all of her. The model clearly implies it’s supposed to be loose-fitting, but her ample bosom fills out the top half to the point of near-translucency of the sheer white material, and her belly makes contact with the bottom half, moving and shaking as the girl turns around.
Jörg walks into the kitchen, messing with whatever he can get his hands on and hiding the fact that his loins are certainly stirred by all of this curvy shapely womanness in front of him.

“When I can’t sleep I usually start eating.” Nina says sheepishly, looking down at the food she just made. “Bad habit of mine. Well, I couldn’t exactly find a ready-made snack, so I started throwing together stuff I could find and… well.. Would you like a bowl too?“ With a smile she offers him a small bowl of garnished rice. It smells vaguely oriental. Jörg smiles back at her as he accepts her offer. They sit down at the kitchen table and start eating. Jörg is amazed at how good the food is, and that all of it came from things he had laying around. Nina pretends not to notice how happy Jörg is with the unexpected treat.

“Nina, can I ask you something?” Jörg begins carefully. Nina nods, her mouth full of food. “What’s your grand plan? You said this afternoon you’ve lived in the USSR for a while, and that you’ve returned to find your family. But what will you do once you’ve found them? Return to Moscow?” He looks at her quizzically. “Or stay here?” he adds hopefully.

Nina swallows her food. That was a larger bite than she had anticipated. A sip of water helps to ease her overindulgence. “That…” she coughs “...is a good question. I’m here for a couple of reasons. Yes, I want to find my family and be reunited with my past. But I’m also here because it’s been exactly five years. I need to find peace with it all. And to directly answer your question; I don’t think I’ll be staying around when I get back in touch with Lisa and Mutti. There are two others with whom I need to reconcile. With one I know exactly where she is, but the other one is somewhere in The Netherlands. I don’t know how, but I’ll find him. I need to find him.”

“Oh.” Jörg replies slightly disappointed. “But what if you find them and they want nothing to do with you anymore, will you stay here? My couch is always at your disposal, you know.”

“Ach quatsch. Why wouldn’t they want to see me again?" she says confidently. "I mean, it’s been a weird turn of events, but I’m sure they’ll be over the moon to hear I’m still alive.” She puts a hand on his knee “...and while you’re very sweet for offering I would like to find a different spot to sleep in due time.”
 

Gooney87

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Joined
Dec 1, 2019
Messages
54
Location
The Netherlands
Chapter 14 - Minutes to midnight

The next morning Nina is awoken by a gentle ray of sun shining in through the double balcony doors of the apartment building. She stretches out, pops every joint in her body, and rolls out of bed. As she walks around the apartment she notices that the weather outside is actually rather nice for a day in November. She opens the doors to the interior garden of Jörg’s apartment, and the sounds of a large city fill the room.

In the kitchen she’s greeted by a few pots and pans, remnants of last night’s cooking fest. She stayed up late with Jörg, talking and laughing, and eating quite a lot. Food was always her way of dealing with situations, and being here, in the house of someone she hasn’t spoken to in over six years, is quite the situation. Food comforts her. It’s always been there for her whenever Natalya would say hurtful things. Whenever she’d be reminded of the people she left behind, or when she could swear she heard a baby cry in the other room. Of course, there never was a baby, but there was always chocolate or random leftovers to ease the pain.

She sits down in front of her plate with eggs and bacon. The wooden chair creaks in protest. Nina barely notices it anymore, eager to start her day with good food and a cigarette. She’s got a big day planned for her and she needs a good load of fuel to function, or so she reckons as the last morsels of breakfast find their way into her cleavage. Another cigarette and a cup of coffee to cap it off, and she’s off to get dressed and face the day.

There are certain smells in this world that always stay with you mentally. A leather jacket, that ‘wet dog smell’ of your four-legged friend, the aftershave of your boyfriend. Among them also; the smell of the Berlin U-bahn. It’s a particular smell, not unpleasant and stinky like the Moscow subway tends to have on a rainy and crowded day. No, the U-bahn smells differently. Slightly organic and herbally, with undertones of wood and hot electronics whenever a train passes by. Back when Nina used to live in Berlin she never noticed, but after finding her winter coat in Moscow still had that lingering smell that took her back to the yellow trains of the VEB Kombinat Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe. The moment she sets foot in the station near Jörg’s flat the smell hits her flat in the face. She’s back. This is Berlin. The nondescript mutterings of the driver over the intercom, the rattling of the old cars, and of course that aroma.

When West-Berlin was reunited with East-Berlin, both subway nets were joined, forming a large network after being split up for forty years. While this might sound like good news for the many travellers going through the system on a daily basis, this also means that there are a lot of transfers involved in going from former-East to former-West or vice-versa. Despite there being few technical difficulties in joining the two nets together there is a large resentment between both teams of drivers, both refusing to drive on the other’s track sections. The ‘Wessies’ maintain that the former East side is dangerous, underlit, and ill-maintained, while the former drivers from VEB BVG-Ost feel that the western side shouldn’t be their problem and that those damn fascists are responsible for moving their people around.

This is far from a good situation, and a massive headache for all travellers, including Nina, who fall victim to this very small-scale cultural divide. To travel the relatively short distance between Kreuzberg and her family’s old Plattenbau-flat in the Singerstraße in Friedrichshain she has to transfer trains three times, and that includes a short section of above-ground S-bahn of exactly one stop. She doesn’t mind though, as she sits on the platform waiting for an S-bahn that should have arrived two minutes ago. It gives her time to think and enjoy her warm croissant in relative peace and quiet.

In the Singerstraße not much has changed, Nina concludes after emerging from her familiar U-bahn station Strausberger Platz. Sure, there are a handful of West-autos parked in the little lot in-between the large, white buildings, likely belonging to the Wessies who were offered a flat to stay behind, but other than that it’s still pretty much the little square where she grew up.
Nina reads the names on the placard at number eleven; her old building, looking for familiar names. She doesn’t recognize many of the names, and in her mother’s apartment a new family apparently moved in. Too bad. That would have been too easy. Simply ring the doorbell, get buzzed in, show up and say ‘Hi mom, I’m back!’ and pick up her old life where she left off five years ago, before everything changed.
Then her finger stops at Dietrich, W. The Hausmeister of the building, and precisely the man who can tell her more about what happened here. She pushes the large, chrome button next to the brass placard, and somewhere in the bowels of the flat a buzzer sounds faintly.
 

Gooney87

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Joined
Dec 1, 2019
Messages
54
Location
The Netherlands
“Who is it?” it sounds from the yellowed plastic speaker above the board of names. Nina tries to stand on her toes to get closer to the microphone, but fails to muster up the strength in her calfs and ends up merely leaning forward against the wall. That worked better five years and forty kilos ago.

“Ehh, it’s Nina. Your old neighbor, remember? Can I come in?” she asks a little timidly.

“Impossible. There’s no Nina here.” the speaker croaks.

“No, I’m Nina. Nina Müller. My mother is Renate Müller. Lived across the hall from you for years. My sister is Lisa Müller, that girl who used to mess with your flower pots, remember?” Nina pauzes as she realizes Wolfgang probably never found out who kept switching his pots around when he wasn’t looking

“Meins Gott. There’s no way…” Wolfgang mutters to himself on the other end of the line. He pauzes, formulates his thoughts, unsure how to react to this voice reaching out to him from the Great Beyond. He sighs. His curiosity beats out his fear of ghosts.
“Come in Mädel! For the love of all, please come in!”
The door buzzes.

Upon entry Nina immediately recognizes the smell of her childhood. Dusty concrete, PVC flooring, and stale air. Exiting the small hallway she immediately turns right towards her old front door. She pauzes, smiles a moment when realizing that would have her end up in some other family’s living room. Behind her a door lock unlatches and a door opens, and a familiar face emerges.

“Ninamädel. Out of all the people I thought would come and visit me today, you were among the least expected, though no less welcome.” the old man smiles. “I’ll go make a cup of hot choco and we’ll talk like we used to.” He smiles as he leads the young girl inside.
Nina smiles. A good hot drink would be more than welcome. Despite the sun the city can be quite cold in early november.

Wolfgang’s living room hasn’t changed much from what Nina remembers. As a child she and her sister would often visit after school, just to catch up and spend an afternoon waiting for Renate to come back home. He had recently retired from his job as a headmaster of a nearby school, and welcomed the company. Nowadays Wolfgang is in his late seventies and his life moves slower than it used to. Regardless he is still in charge of the wellbeing of the Singerstraße 11.1 through 11.4, his apartment building. Its inhabitants appreciate the effort the man puts into it, especially the indigenous Ossies who are quite appreciative that ‘one of them’ has taken charge.

He smiles as he sees Nina’s face beaming with happiness as he puts a truly gargantuan mug of choco in front of her. She looks at the treat in front of her. That has certainly been a while! She hasn't changed much. Her hair has gotten longer and slightly more unkempt, and she's filled out quite a bit in her time away from Die Heimat.
“With a dash of whipped cream. As one is obliged to do in these matters.” he smiles. With Nina sitting in his living room, enjoying her drink like she used to, things feel slightly more normal again after everything that happened these last years.

Nina looks at the man. She has so many questions for him, and he looks as if he has just as many for her. Yet here they sit, allowing the silence to be broken only by the clock on the wall of the living room. The room hasn’t changed much, still sporting the simple and somewhat outdated DDR decor it has for as long as Nina can remember. Pictures of the wall show Wolfgang’s proudest moments in life; marrying his late wife, snapshots from the Fünften Polytechnische Oberschule where he presided for years, and a photo of him at a neighborhood blockparty, smiling and posing with a young and pregnant Renate while holding a toddler in his strong arms.

“So, you’ve returned to Berlin.” he finally breaks the silence while looking at Nina sharply. “That was….unexpected. After you had disappeared we all assumed you had eloped with that Wessie. And then there was that dodgy suicide letter that fell apart if you looked at it twice. We started asking around, and your sister soon fessed up about your Republikflucht. And then there was that newspaper article with the shot-up car at Friedrichstraße.”

“Sorry.” Nina says softly, her eyes away from the bald man opposite her. She realises all too well how much pain she’s caused for her friends and family with her half-baked plan to run away, leaving them with nothing but a suicide letter so that they won’t go and look for her.

“You don’t have to apologize to me, young lady. But you owe your mother a giant apology, know that. It took weeks for her to muster up the strength to go outside. Well, of course that Russian fellow didn’t help matters much.”

“What Russian guy? Gregor?” Nina looks at Wolfgang surprised. She did not expect her dad to get involved in all this. Usually he’s high and dry somewhere on that boat of his when family dramas occur.

“Yep, him. A few weeks after everything collapsed here he showed up drunk, planning to collect you and your mom, and get out of here. In a single morning they crated up most of their belongings and left without a trace. He was talking about wanting to bring your mother and you to safety. When he heard about your escape and/or death he was furious. Punched dents in the wall, screaming at the trees, you name it.”

“And what about Lisa? Did she join them?” Nina takes a sip of choco.

“Meins Gott no. That’s a whole different story. Lisa was here when Gregor showed up but soon snuck out. She spent that night somewhere else, and when she returned the following morning she was made clear in no uncertain terms that she was not included of any of Gregor’s plans, and that she was to fend for herself from now on. No matter how much Renate pleaded with him, begged him even, Lisa was still here after Gregor and Renate left. At first I let her stay in the now-vacant apartment, but with the influx of Wessies claiming housing here I had to evict her. She slept on my couch for a while, and eventually left to stay with some boyfriend of hers.”

“Do you know where she is now?” Nina asks.

“No idea, girl.” Wolfgang says apologetically. “Sometimes I think I catch a glimpse of her in the shadows beneath the S-bahn, or in a dark tunnel, but I am an old man and sometimes I see things that aren’t there.” He shifts position on the couch, half-expecting Nina to vanish into thin air. “Your parents went up north somewhere. Gregor got his hands on a Datsche near the navy base where he was stationed. Did you never get the letters I passed on to you? Your mom wrote to you for months, as did that Wessie-freund of yours.”

“Wait, letters? My Wessie-freund? Tom?!” Nina looks at the man opposite her with large eyes. “Tom’s dead!”

“Well, he’s one of the most persevering stiffs I’ve ever met then. I must have forwarded at least ten of his letters to the parents of that Russian friend of yours. Who, I might add, sent me a change of address-card. Something your parents never did.” the old man grumbles. “At some point I got up the courage to send that Dutch fellow a short note telling him that I hadn’t seen you around in months, and that maybe it’d be wise if he directed his attention elsewhere.”

“So you say you’ve got letters from Tom? Where are they now?” Nina asks excitedly.

“Everything I found in your mailbox I forwarded to Ivan and Milena Khamatov in Moscow. Nice folks. They send me a Christmas card each year. They told me they in turn forwarded everything to their daughter and her roommate. So if you want to know what happened to that correspondence I recommend asking her.”

Nina feels herself boil with rage. All those years Natalya knew about Tom, the love of her life, was still alive and kicking, and she withheld that from her. Every time she cried about Tom Natalya told her that he was in a better place now, and that she shouldn’t be sad as it was better this way. Her hands ball up into fists just thinking about it, and her puffy cheeks flush red with anger.
 
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Gooney87

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Joined
Dec 1, 2019
Messages
54
Location
The Netherlands
Midnight in Moscow is about the only time when the city is truly quiet. There’s less traffic, the trams have stopped their loud drives, and almost everyone is fast asleep. On the small square in Novye Cheryomushki, a single light still shines from the large concrete building with the poetic name of Apartment Building K7. A sole person is still up and about there.

Natalya yawns. It’s late, but her mind can’t allow her to fall asleep. She’s at the kitchn room table, overlooking a large cardboard box she drug out of the downstairs storage earlier. The box is a little grubby, and the heavy snowfall didn’t help the structural integrity of it much. Natalya eyes the box cautiously as she opens the lid.

For the first couple of months of living in Moscow she’d occasionally receive packages of post for Nina. At first she wondered where it was all coming from, but then she found out that her parents were forwarding everything they got from the old Hausmeister of Nina’s former Berlin residence. Natalya wanted to give the mail to Nina, but when she saw how much the poor girl was hurting and missing Berlin she decided it was probably for the best if she kept quiet and let bygones be bygones. She started hiding the mail downstairs, in a corner of the storage unit she knew Nina would never come. Sure, she had to find a way to crawl over a bunch of her neighbor’s stuff every time new arrivals showed up, but at least it was safe, out of reach of Nina. When finally the correspondence stopped she taped the box up, put it away even further, and tried her best to forget about it. What Nina doesn’t know about cannot hurt her.

But with Nina’s disappearal and Natalya’s desperate search for clues the box has resurfaced, right there on the table. Natalya holds her head in her hands, her third or possibly fourth glass of vodka next to her. Her alcohol-fueled brain is telling her she needs to open that box and deal with whatever’s inside. She sighs as she slowly rises. Her hands work to remove the tape from the cardboard. This is going to be one of those nights.

It’s a small white envelope, with a bit of tape sealing the flap. Clearly someone has been in here before. Likely the Stasi, making sure no-one was sending any hard currency across the wall. Her hands shake as she tears into it, afraid of what the letter will show.
-----------------
Hi Liebchen,

I hope this letter reaches you, somehow. It’s important that you read this. Important for you. Important for us.

I am alive and well. Granted, it was close but I made it out of Hohenschönhausen in one piece. When we got separated again I fought. I kicked, I screamed, but there were too many of them. They must have knocked me out, because the last thing I can remember was waking up in the back of a car heading towards Checkpoint Charlie.

Once I got deposited in West-Berlin the American borderguard made it abundantly clear that until further notice the DDR was absolutely closed. Not an hour later the air raid alarm sounded and everyone in the direct vicinity of the border was told to leave post-haste. I chose to save myself, and drove out of Berlin and towards the BRD. A bad decision made in a state of panic and a daze, but one I’m going to have to live with.

I’m back in the Netherlands, and trying to keep up with the events in Berlin. It’s difficult as I suspect we’re not getting the whole picture. There’s talk of riots, attacks on buildings, fires, civil unrest. But they also said that those who want to leave are free to do so. If you manage to flee the Netherlands ánd West-Germany have a joint policy to harbor any refugees. There’s a Dutch consulate on the Klosterstraße 50. Go there and tell them you’re asking for political asylum in the Netherlands. The Dutch government will safeguard you then. They’ll ask for the number and name of someone in the Netherlands. That’ll be me. They’ll then contact me to verify your identity, and we’ll see from there.

I’ve tried calling your neighbor a bunch of times, but keep getting the message that the phone line is dead. The West-German TV says that all the phone lines have been cut to and from the DDR. I’ll keep trying though, at some point someone is bound to tie them together again.

Stay safe my love. Grab your things and head to the consulate, and I’m sure that it’ll sort itself out.

With all my love,
Tom
-----------------

Natalya’s heart sinks as she reads the letter. This is exactly what she was afraid of. Tom’s alive, and was looking for her. This changes everything. She looks at the date of the letter. It arrived in Berlin the day before Nina showed up on her doorstep, and she and her family ran away to Moscow. If Nina would have made it back to her mother’s she would have found it waiting for her on the doorstep, and probably would have lived with Tom right now.

“She would have given everything to be with that man.” Natalya says to herself. Slowly but surely she realizes why Nina went back to Berlin. Someone needs to find that girl before she hurts herself.

“Damnit Nina, where do you have that thing?!” Natalya is sitting in the bedroom, surrounded by opened drawers and articles of clothing strewn about. She’s looking for something, a small green book she’s seen Nina carrying around containing all of her secrets, or at the minimum addresses. And she needs to know what’s inside now more than ever.
Furiously she digs through drawers and cupboards, throwing things throughout the small bedroom. Her hair was in a tight bun, but as the night progressed and turned into morning more and more strands fell out, occasionally being flicked out of her face. Not here, the next drawer gets opened; Nina’s underwear drawer.

Much to her surprise that woman owns far nicer things than she’s ever seen her wear. Natalya’s attention immediately gets drawn to a frilly red set. She holds up the hanger holding the bra and briefs, noting how one of the cups could easily hold her head. Thoughts of her fat friend wearing the set, or most of it, dance inside her brain. She runs her hands over the lace edging, imagining Nina’s fat pushing the material outwards, her soft and heavy breasts billowing over the straps and straining the material to contain all of her womanly goods. Natalya would then beckon Nina to come sit beside her on the bed, slowly unclasping the bra with one hand, while the other would find its way on her soft belly, feeling her fat, kneading it. She’d stare into her eyes, tell her she’s the most beautiful woman she’s ever met, and then their lips would touch as the last bra clasp lets go, dropping Nina’s breasts onto her belly and straight into Natalya’s eager hands.

“Focus Khamatova, sexy thoughts later, finding that damn booklet now.” Natalya shakes the mental image off and carefully places the red lace set back into the drawer. When Nina returns she needs to have a talk with her, badly.

Outside the sun slowly rises and the city awakes. Natalya has been pulling letters from the box and reading them all night. Letters from Tom, who gets more and more desperate in his search for his German girlfriend. He talks about how he has mounted a search from The Netherlands through the DDR consulate, having basically everyone with even the slightest amount of influence in Berlin out looking for her. About how he mourned when the West-German police told him she was most likely shot to death in the riots surrounding the Wiederanschluß. Natalya couldn’t help but cry at Toms last letter; a heartfelt goodbye to the love of his life, and a promise they would find each other somewhere, somehow, and be reunited forever.

And then there are Renate’s unanswered letter to her daughters. She reluctantly joined Gregor to a navy base near Travemünde, and she’s not liking the life there at all. Gregor is away much, often for long periods, and the poor woman is lonely. She never forgave him for having to abandon Lisa in Berlin. The words ‘that bastard child can go run to her dad for help’ cut deep with her. She’s found a local support group for mothers who have lost children and on their advice she wrote this letter, sending it off to the last known place where both were alive. The lack of a proper goodbye for either one of the girls hurt her gravely.
 

Gooney87

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Joined
Dec 1, 2019
Messages
54
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“Aha! Found it! Nina you devilish girl you. Of course it’s in that secret compartment you don’t want anyone to know about.” With a mighty pull she pulls off the cabinet’s baseplate, revealing the small space underneath the double floor. In it lays Nina’s old diary, the sought-after green book of addresses, and a small box containing a bunch of photos. She knew about Nina’s so-called secret diary, occasionally reading a bit when Nina had forgotten it on her dresser or in another easily accessible location, but she never knew about the box of photos. She looks around the room, almost out of habit, and pulls the box out.

The first picture show a young Nina, barely 18 and balancing precariously on a small ledge looking sultry at the camera. Natalya recognizes the image, she took this one as a set to send out to Tom in the spring of ‘89. Back when Nina made her promise she would never tell a single soul she was in love with Die Klassenfeind. The next picture show Tom and Nina together in her mother’s Trabant. The sun shines in through the windows of the small blue car. The two teens are smiling, they’re happy. She flips the photo. In pencil it says “Tom & ich, Dresden ‘89. So viele ♡” She flips the photo back. A self-portrait taken by Nina, her arm outstretched for an impromptu self-portrait with her boyfriend. She’s happy. Nina smiles and looks over the rim of her sunglasses at the lens. Natalya misses that smile. She sighs as she grabs the next photo from the box. It’s a picture of herself and Nina, standing in the living room of her mother’s apartment. They’re wearing just a bit too much make-up, and their hair has been carefully styled to match the latest fashion trends of the era. Their tops match, though Nina already filled out hers in a way that Natalya could never match. “My not-sister and I. Look out Berlin!” it says on the back. Natalya knows exactly when this photo has been taken. It was the summer of ‘88, and Nina just broke up with Mikhael. To cheer her up they had planned a ladies night out. Lots of dancing, more alcohol, and an uncertain hope it would cheer the gloom Nina up a bit. Natalya can’t remember how the night ended. How old were they here, eighteen? If only she had worked up the courage to tell her how she really felt about her friend that night. Maybe everything would have been different then.

Natalya sighs. This was one box she shouldn’t have opened. She puts the pictures back in, making sure they’re in the same order she found them in, and slides the box back into its hiding spot. If Nina returns it’s best if she doesn’t know her friend was in here.

“Not if she returns, when she returns.” Natalya says to herself as she walks out of the bedroom. She has to return. She leafs through Nina’s address book. This is one call she really does not want to make.
 

Gooney87

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Chapter 15 - In the Air Tonight
The old yellow cars of the U-bahn shake and rattle as they roll through the tunnel, occasionally lighting up the darkness with a spark and a sharp crackle of the stale air. Stunned, Nina leans back against the uncomfortable plastic seats. The worn pillows provide hardly any support for her weighty body. She looks out the window, into the darkness of the tunnel.
Gregor and her mom just left Berlin. Packed up and went. Left Lisa to fend for herself. How old was her sister back then, sixteen? How could they? And to hear that nobody ever came back to check on her. Nobody went looking for Nina either, for that matter.
On the other hand; as far as they knew Nina was either dead or living happily on the other side of the Iron Curtain. And the situation in Berlin got more perilous with every passing day. Wolfgang told about the days directly following the forced Mauerbruch by Western troops. Tanks rolled on the Karl Marx Allee, and every day the streets would echo with shots fired by both sides to either defend or recapture the capitalist enclave of Berlin-West. Everyone feared this was the straw that would break the camel's back and set off World War Three.

Thankfully, and to much surprise, cooler heads prevailed and Berlin-West and Berlin-Ost were slowly merged into one unified Berlin under Egon Krenz and the SED.
Outside the apartment Wolfgang showed Nina the bullet holes in the facade of the old white building. Memories of a turbulent and frightening time. In those days many fled the city, either to the West if they had the right papers, or to relatives further east if they could. It took a televised press conference by the leaders of all four stakeholders in Berlin; Egon Krenz, George Bush, Helmut Kohl, ánd Mikhail Gorbatsjov, debating the failure of the forty-year old capitalist enclave in the heart of the DDR before a semblance of stability would return to the mostly shot-up city.

All of this was only mentioned briefly on Russian state-tv. The news broadcasts in the USSR mostly focussed on fascists movements within the DDR planning and executing terrorist strikes on the proud Worker-and-Farmer state, undermining the peaceful socialist society.
Nina followed these developments initially with much interest, but the more bloody and violent the reports got, the more she shied away from them.
Was it self-preservation or fear of what had become of her Heimat? All she could think about then were her family and friends in the German city.
Natalya told her to move on, that she was safe, and that her family would have wanted it that way. But since returning here she’s starting to doubt about Natalya’s motives. As it turned out her friend’s story had more holes in it than her old building, Nina’s family has moved to some remote corner of East-Germany, and she hasn’t gotten a single step closer to finding and reuniting with them or her sister.

Still engrossed in her own musings Nina walks up the stairs to Jörg’s apartment. She sighs as she reaches the first landing. All this walking around today hasn’t done wonders for her leg, and she’s quite out of breath too. She rubs her muscles to ease the pain and looks up to the next flight. Why couldn’t every building, including this short five-story one, be equipped with an elevator? She leans against a wall, waiting for her heart rate to slow and allow her to climb higher. Thankfully Jörg’s studio is only on the second floor.

As she opened the door to the hallway she paused, panting from the exertion of climbing two sets of stairs, a familiar scent wafts through the air, picking her up by the nostrils and carrying her towards the front door of her temporary residence. ]
Sauerkraut, potatoes, and black pudding, if her nose is to be trusted.
Someone is preparing quite a feast! Despite the many snacks Wolfgang presented to the girl she finds that her stomach is once again demanding food in a loud manner, spurred on by that wonderful smell and the fact that it’s already past 6 o’clock.

She knocks on the door, and within moments the happy face of Jörg appears. The smell of food intensifies as the door swings open, revealing Jörg’s rather traditionally decorated apron. Nina can’t help but smile as she sees his colorful attire.

“Hi Nina! Come in, I’m just preparing dinner.” he says with a smile on his face. Nina walks in, still stunned by the vivid colors of his apron and this wild display of housewifery from the taxi driver.

“Oh, ‘scuse me, I need to get to the kitchen. Duh.” Jörg says as he leads Nina through the narrow hallway into the living room. He turns around, and meets the fat girl right in the middle of the hallway. There’s barely enough room for one person to walk down the narrow corridor flanked by coat racks and other items, let alone two; one of which being the rather corpulent Nina.
Awkwardly, they revolve around each other as Nina tries to exit the hallway to get to the living room. Jörg can feel her soft fat body push against his, and his manhood immediately springs to life. They pauze, their eyes locked together. He carefully puts a hand on her waist, and feels the soft warmness of her side rolls as he loses himself in Nina’s bright blue eyes.
“If this was a movie, we’d kiss right about now.” he says softly to her. She starts laughing as he pauzes to gauge her reaction. Her whole body jiggles along with her laughter. He moves his head in towards hers, still transfixed by her gaze.

“Get moving, man!” Nina says as she pushes him away towards the kitchen. “You’re in the way.”

She giggles as she enters the living room. In the hallway Jörg makes a beeline for the kitchen, sighing softly and turning his attention towards the bubbling pot on the stove and away from the moment that could have been.

Nina looks at the fully-set dining table in the corner, its colorful tablecloth and merrily burning tealight a stark contrast with the somewhat messy and uncoordinated decor of the rest of the room. The sharp folds in the cloth suggest that this thing hasn’t been out of its packaging in quite some time, possibly ever. She raises her eyebrows. “Really, you shouldn’t have gone through all this trouble.” she says surprised at this scene in front of her.

“Yeah, I didn’t know when you’d get home, or in what state, so I figured ‘Eh, might as well set the table and cook dinner’, so you don’t have to worry about that anymore. Take a seat, sit down, relax. I’m sure you’ve had an exciting day and can’t wait to tell me about it.” it sounds from the kitchen.

Nina blinks a few times at this whole situation. Normally she’s always the one in the kitchen slaving away over hot pots and pans trying to get dinner on the table in time before Natalya gets home all hungry and tired. This ‘being taken care of’-thing is new to her. She slides the chair backwards to give herself some room to sit down, pours herself a drink, and slumps down in the wooden chair. What a day.

That evening Jörg and Nina are sitting on the couch. Dinner was good, and Nina ate a little more than usual. She rubs her distended stomach as stealthily as possible, trying to digest it all without letting Jörg think she’s some sort of pig. She shifts position to give her belly a bit more room between her legs. Her skirt is digging in her belly, restricting any sort of movement.

“D’you mind if I…” she asks sheepishly as her hands find her belt buckle buried deep in her fat midsection. Jörg smiles and shakes his head.
With a sigh her belly breaks free from her opened skirt, pulling the zipper down with it. That’s better. She gives Jörg a sideways glance to make sure he’s not watching her rub her belly as she reaches over to the small table for her glass of wine.
Jörg had a bottle stashed away ‘for a special occasion’. It was gone sooner than either one had anticipated. Luckily a second bottle of perhaps lesser quality was soon found and opened.

“What a situation sweetie. So Natalya has been lying to you all these years? She knew everything but never saw fit to tell you any of it?” Jörg asks somewhat upset. Over dinner he heard Nina’s story and got emotional over the injustice done to this woman by a girl pretending to be her best friend.

Nina sets down her glass again. “Yep. Everything. She knew it all. And didn’t tell me.” She leans back on the couch and feels her body relaxing against the pillows.

“And now?”

“I… I want to find Lisa, but… I dunno…” a hiccup shakes her body, sending ripples through her now uncontained belly and large breasts. “‘ ‘scuse me. I don’t know what to do anymore…” The alcohol is doing a number on her brain, disrupting her train of thought. “By the by, are you okay with me staying here a few days longer?”
 

Gooney87

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Jörg looks over at this wonderful fat girl that paraded herself into his life as she leans against his shoulder. He can feel her soft arms against his, and if he angles himself juuust right he can make out the outline of her heaving bosoms in her blouse as they rest against her belly. She looks up at him, her bright blue eyes as captivating as the day he first met her, all those years ago.

“Sure!” he replies “Take all the time you need.” He likes having her around, finding company in the evenings after work, and the fact that she’s not bad on the eyes certainly helps.

“ ‘cause…I don’t want you to think I’m abusing your hospitality and using you for free lodging or anything.” Nina looks up at the man next to her. The plan was to rent a room somewhere and use that as a base of operations, but she’s grown quite fond of her former classmate’s company over the last few days.

“Believe me sweetheart, you don’t. At all. You’re always welcome here. I love having you around.” He looks at the woman next to him, so close he can practically smell her hair. “By the way, and forgive me if I step out of line, but do you mind if I light up a joint?” He reaches one arm to the side of the couch and retrieves an ashtray and a small bag.

Nina looks at him and shrugs. It’s his house. Why not? She gets a grateful nod in return as he lights up a roach. It smells vaguely herbal, like that one weird cigarette she stole from Natalya back in Warsaw.

“Oh, some host I am. You smoke too, right?” Jörg asks.

“Cigarettes, yes. This stuff, no.” She shakes her head. She used to be firmly against drugs, but after finding out what a good cocktail of prescription drugs from Natalya’s work can do to dull the pain from a gunshot wound to the leg she’s slowly revising that opinion.

“Would you like to give it a try? I find it sort of mutes your thoughts for a moment. It’s the perfect way to relax.”

It mutes your thoughts. A perfect way to relax. His words resound in her brain. After everything she’s been through in Berlin her mind is firing a non-stop assault of thoughts and worries at the young girl. At night she’s losing sleep over everything, making the next day even worse. She looks at the man next to her, offering her his lit joint.

“Well, only if you want. I’m not forcing anything onto you.”

“No, no, it’s cool. Just a few drags.” she says as she accepts the little thing and sticks it between her lips. She inhales deeply. The smoke reaches deep into her chest.

Nothing.

She gives it a hard look, making sure the end is still lit. She looks at Jörg who smiles softly at her. Another drag.

And suddenly it feels like someone opened a can of soda in her brain. A weird, fizzy sensation followed by a blanket of calm. Like the wind finally died down inside her skull.

“Ah. That.” she says as she leans back into the couch. A blanket of warmness envelops her, and just as advertised her thoughts are becoming more and more silent. She puts a hand on the pillow. It’s soft. A little scratchy, perhaps. She laughs as the couch beneath her starts purring at her touch.

“Feels good, no?” says Jörg as he takes the lit joint from her fingers.

Nina nods. The couch has stopped purring but the quietness in her brain remains. ‘This is nice’ she thinks to herself as she looks at Jörg.
“So, do you still see people from the old days? From school?” Nina asks. She’s been wanting to ask him this for a while, but never could find the right moment to do so.

He shakes his head “No, not really. After the graduation ceremony everyone sort of went their own way. You disappeared, along with your Russian friend. I hung out with a few other boys, but after they got work outside of Berlin that group fell apart. And then when your own career advice says ‘Just go into the military and get shot at’, and you don’t really want to do that, there’s not much left of your social life.” He stares at the ceiling, watching the plume of smoke slowly dissipate.

“You had to go into the NVA?” Nina asks. She too was chosen by the SED to serve Die Heimat. She had gotten the letter in the summer following her exams in the Hochschule, and that was one of the main reasons she decided to make a run for it. Well, that, and the fact that two months later she would have had to give serious thought about children’s names.

“Yup. Foot soldier. Cannon fodder. They badly needed grunts to break through that Wall and let those fascists perverts have it. I wasn’t down with that whole idea, so I managed to get myself declared unfit, and was given a job as a taxi driver instead.” He pauzes a moment. “Did I regret doing that? Well, I’m alive so it isn’t all bad. I don’t mind my job, which I presume is more than most can say, and the tips from Wessies make it all worthwhile. Plus, I’ve been commissioned that brand-new Volga parked outside and that’s a really nice thing to have at our age. But enough about me; what about you?” He lights a new joint, takes a huff and hands the thing to Nina’s awaiting fingers.

“Me? I’m alive, against everyone’s expectations.”
She takes a deep drag and wants to hand the roach back to Jörg. He declines, tells her to finish it.
“After I landed in the USSR with Natalya everything was upside-down. She got a job at a local hospital after a short training, which was pretty damn convenient considering half my leg was shot off recently and felt like it was ready to fall off. The things she smuggled out of there kept me sane those first period. But the mental pain never went away. I was living in a country where I didn’t belong on borrowed time. I wasn’t supposed to exist. And then the days get pretty damn long by yourself. I had a little illegal vegetable garden where I grew things I’d sell on the black market, and I’d use that money for….welll…” she looks down at her own fat midriff “...food, mainly. Food keeps me company. Eases the pain.” She takes another deep drag of the joint. The painful memory of her time in the USSR is muted along with all the other bad stuff. “And now I’m here. Off to find my family, or what’s left of them.”

“What’s left of them?” Jörg looks at her quizzically. During the Wiederanschluß great efforts were made to keep civilian casualties to a minimum, or at least that’s what the East-German media reported.

“My sister is somewhere here in Berlin, though nobody knows where. Mom and Gregor have left to a navy base near Travemünde, or so says my old neighbor.” Nina takes a deep drag of her joint. She finds that it blocks out the negative thoughts quite well. Nina looks at the half-smoked roach in her hand. This is good stuff. “...and then there’s the question of Elizabeth.” she mutters to herself. She sighs and silently smokes the rest of the joint, occasionally coughing as she feels herself getting lightheaded.

Jörg is silent too, a rarity in his life. He looks over at the woman on the couch next to him, watching her soft body jiggle as she coughs. Slowly he feels her warm softness snuggle against him. One of her large breasts is pressing against his forearm. He doesn’t dare to move, lest she notices it and corrects the placement of her boob. It’s heavy. Heavier than he had expected. And so soft.
He’s never dated much. A few years ago he had a fling with a woman he met. It was fun for both parties involved, but eventually it sizzled out. Back in high school he always noticed Nina. How she’d lean over her desk, her then already quite large bosom smushed against the little wooden table, occasionally needing to get repositioned. How she’d fill out an FDJ-uniform like there was no tomorrow, straining the buttons with her soft womanness. And now here she is, propped against him, smoking his weed and with her abundant curves within arm’s reach.

“Aren’t we a pair?” Nina softly says.”A conscientious objector and someone who by all accounts should be dead.” She closes her eyes, lets the echoes of the words reverb in her brain. Slowly she falls over onto her friend’s lap.

Jörg looks at her, her head now firmly in his lap, eyes closed, enjoying the world in a brief moment of silence and peace. It takes all his effort not to direct his gaze downward to her plump young body as he’s fighting off an erection threatening to poke her in the neck. He strokes her hair, moving a few strands out of her face. Her eyes open, looking at him with that indirect stare only someone who is completely and utterly stoned can muster up.

“Do you know you really do have beautiful blue eyes?” he says as he runs his hands through her long soft brown hair. He grabs the nearly smoked joint from her hands, a soft protest coming from her lips.
“Before you set the carpet on fire, sweetheart.” Her eyes follow his hands, only vaguely aware of what’s going on anymore.
“I’m so in love with you.” he says softly to her.

“I’m in love with sheep. They are important.” Nina replies in a daze, unaware of what’s going on anymore.

Jörg smiles as he gently places her head on a pillow, and gets up off the couch. He can hear her snoring before he’s even left the room.
 

Gooney87

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Chapter 16 - Am Checkpoint Charlie

The Haus am Checkpoint Charlie started out as a museum documenting the often contrived and ill-conceived ways people tried to escape from the GDR into the perceived free West-Berlin. Situated straight across the former border post on the Friedrichstraße, the white building overlooks what many saw as the final frontier of capitalism or the death throes of a failed Western enclave in an East-bloc country, depending on who you’d ask.
After the Wiederanschluß the East-German government took control of all of the museums in the reunified city, placing them under strict government supervision and revamping their exhibits into something a tad more socialist-friendly. For most this meant receiving a decent injection of money and a note asking to reevaluate and possibly replace some fascist art. However, for the Haus am Checkpoint Charlie this conversion process proved far more difficult. All the exhibits concerning the many escape attempts made were quickly removed. Under the watchful eye of the SED the small museum was expanded into a memorial honoring the many men and women serving at the border post just across the street, keeping the people safe from the evil locked up behind the Wall.

Nina walks to the closed ticket booth in front of the main hall. She stops and reads a small white sign stating that in the West people had to pay to enter museums. It insinuates how glad everyone should be that the state believes that art and history should be accessible to everyone, free of charge. For reference, the former entry prices are still printed on the glass, along with a whole inaccurate conversion from Westmarken into Ostmarken.

Inside the main hall it’s fairly quiet. It is, after all, just another Wednesday-morning in November and most people are either at work or doing household chores in the home. Nina hates crowds. Everyone is always bumping into her and she can feel their prying eyes as the German girl slowly walks up stairs or gets winded walking longer distances at speed. Natalya once remarked on Nina’s troubled gait, saying that she always had to be mindful of calculating more travel time whenever both girls would walk somewhere. Nina laughed it off, but deep inside that comment hurt her more than Natalya would realize.

Nina pauses at a large glass case containing a mannequin of a female Border Patrol Officer proudly wearing the green and tan uniform of the GrePo. The light green jacket is neatly trimmed, pulling in around the waist before flaring out towards the bottom, giving way to a tight green pantalon and extremely shiny black boots. Nina looks at her own reflection, picturing herself wearing it. What if she went through with that whole mess instead of running away to Tom? Would she be the one shouting commands through a bullhorn while hitting people with the nightstick, threatening to open fire on them if they came any closer? Would she dare pick up the 9mm FEG PA-63 standard service weapon from its holster and point it at someone? Perhaps even pull the trigger?
Nina absentmindedly puts her hands on her hips, feeling the softness of her waist. Would they even make that uniform in her size? She looks down, only to be greeted by the fullness of her breasts and the crescent of her large belly barely visible from beyond their twin bulges. She sighs. She probably wouldn’t have made it through the initial training anyway. No room for plus-sized girls in the NVA.

Slowly she walks over to a mockup of the Karl-Marx-Allee, built back when the large avenue was still called the Stalinallee and was the pride of the SED. The large buildings towering over the wide avenue were designed by the clever architects of the proud GDR to showcase all their might, perhaps inspiring the inhabitants of the area to better employ themselves to the service of the state; or so reads the sign next to the scale model.
Nina smiles as she remembers her childhood. She grew up in a side street of the ‘Karl-Marx’, while Natalya’s parents had an apartment in one of the buildings. Sure, in theory the nicer condos were accessible to all who wanted them. In reality though it wasn’t so much a question of how hard you ‘employed yourself to the furthering of the state’ and more about who you knew, if you lived up to the correct socialist ideals, and how much the SED liked you and your family. In other words; the Müllers didn’t have a chance to live in the most coveted of apartments. A Russian father who is only present for a few days per year, most likely drunk off his ass, the eldest daughter is romantically involved with a Wessie, the youngest daughter decided that she is punk to the bone and rebel against everyone and anything, all somewhat managed by an overworked practically-single mother desperately trying to keep everything together in the sixty-nine square meters on the Singerstraße they called home. Just about the exact opposite of what the SED had in mind for the prestigious street..
But what if everything had gone just a bit differently? What if Tom had come to the GDR and they had moved in together? Would they have gotten a flat on the ‘Karl-Marx’? She would have been a proud Grenzpolizistin, assuming she could have squeezed into that uniform, and he would have done...something-or-another. Maybe she could have pulled rank with her years of volunteering in the FDJ. And Tom’s a Wessie who would have voluntarily given up his Dutch passport for a stay in the GDR, a success story for the SED if there ever was one.
 

Gooney87

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As she exits the main hall she walks to the area dedicated to the special exhibitions. This week marks the fifth anniversary of the Wiederanschluß, and all throughout Berlin there are events commemorating the moment East- and West-Berlin were joined after forty years of separation. The Haus am Checkpoint Charlie put together a small collection aptly titled Topographie des Terrors; pictures and stories of the ones who stayed in former-West-Berlin as it was reunified with the rest of the GDR. The stories boast proudly of how happy the former Wessies now are, how much better life has become away from the hustle and bustle of capitalism, and how they rue the fact that friends and neighbors chickened out and were escorted to the border crossing with the Bundesrepublik at Marienborn by what remained of the West-German police force, never to return to Berlin.

Nina reads the stories. They all tell a similar story. People in their fifties who in West-Berlin were being edged out of their job by the younger generation suddenly found their skills and conservative lifestyle a good match for the labor-heavy workforce of the GDR. Most of the refugees to the BRD were younger people, families, people of Nina’s age. They left behind a vacuum that the older generations were more than happy to fill.
All of the people on the pictures had a choice. All of them were free to leave to the West, away from this, and they stayed. Nina shakes her head. If she had been given an actual choice back then she knew what she would have done. Her picture would certainly not be among these in the hall. No matter how hard Tom talked to her, trying to convince that they’d be happy together in the GDR, she would have taken the road to Marienborn.

In the little museum store there’s a decent collection of trinkets commemorating former West-Berlin and its culture. She flicks through a pile of white t-shirts with the picture of a VW Beetle on them. She smiles at the image, a cute drawing of one parked under a tree.

“I wonder if they sell things like this in the West…” she says to no-one in particular. “Museums filled with DDR-things, and the gift shop selling shirts with Trabants on them and cans of Mokkafix to take home as a souvenir.”

She grabs a shirt, the largest one she can find. Holding it up to her chest it quickly becomes apparent that it is never going to fit over her fat body. Her chest by itself is wider than the white garment, and that’s not even taking into account for any room to hold her soft belly. She pulls it tighter, perhaps with a bit of carefully applied finessing…. But the shirt barely makes it to her shoulders, hopelessly distorting the image on the front. Resigned, she tosses the thing back onto the pile.
A Men’s XL seems to work better for her. At the very least it’ll do a better job at fitting over her assets, she concludes as she looks down. Her heavy breasts have been the cause of many sizing difficulties in her life, and it seems that since moving to Russia they’ve really taken on a mind of their own. Every morning it’s a struggle to get them in her bras, hopelessly tugging at the straps the whole day in an attempt to give her back and shoulders some relief from their weight.

Last summer Nina had brought home a watermelon from the store as a cool, refreshing snack for the sweltering days. That evening she heard her Russian friend giggle from the bedroom, and when she came to check on the girl she noticed that Natalya had put the fruit in one of Nina’s bras and was admiring the fruits of her comedic genius.
Nina wasn’t too sure what upset her more: the fact that Natalya had clearly been digging around in her underwear drawer, or that the melon fit perfectly in one of the cups of her worn-out 90H-sized bra.

Nina takes a good long look at the shirt. A Men’s XL. Sure, buying a shirt tailored to the opposite sex isn’t half as bad as having to shop for skirts in the maternity section because she’s officially outgrown everything else, but this still does not feel right to her. A Men’s XL should be worn by strong, broad-shouldered men. Not German girls with fat saggy bellies and heavy, full breasts from emotional eating. She swallows as she feels the tears well up. Eating helps. It fills a void inside her, if only for a moment. But the emptiness soon returns.
As if on queue her stomach growls. She tries to shake the dark thoughts, and notices they sell chocolate candy bars at the register. On a whim she brings the shirt and grabs two KitKats as she approaches the counter, where she stops dead in her tracks at the sight of the man behind the register wearing a museum uniform. One of the border guards who filtered her out of the queue just outside all those years ago, now employed to stack folders and point people to the restrooms.

“Have you found everything you were looking for, miss?” the man asks routinely. Nina nods her head, trying to avoid looking straight at him. She doesn't want this attention. Not now.

“Are you alright, miss? Can I help you with anything?” the man asks, trying to be helpful. Nina looks up and he freezes in place. He’s seen those eyes before. Those intensely blue eyes that seem to pierce straight through you. But where? In his last function as border guard he must have seen a thousand faces, or double that if you count pictures in passports. Slowly a memory rises to the top of his brain.

It was in the last days before the Wiederanschluß. He was doing a routine control when suddenly the narcotics dog indicated on an orange Volkswagen Golf owned by a young couple. Upon further questioning the male made a run for it as his wife tried to force her way through the barriers. He remembers the car being disabled by the Genossen on the watchtower, and the woman was hospitalized with severe injuries.

He shakes the thought and fakes a smile at the young woman in front of him. He likes this job, it doesn’t require a lot of brain power, and it keeps the dark thoughts away during the day.

“Here you go, miss…” he says as he hands the girl a small plastic bag with two candy bars and a t-shirt. “...and I’d like to point out the small collection of photographs and anecdotes just outside to the right.” He points to the front door of the museum shop to the display they built a few years ago.
As Nina turns around and walks away the man feels a shiver running down his spine. Did he just see a ghost? His eyes follow her broad backside as she exits out to the street, but his attention is soon demanded by the next customer in line.
 

Gooney87

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There is a lot of traffic making quite a racket in front of the museum on the Friedrichstraße. Trabants and other GDR-built machinery drive back and forth between East and West, people walking by, on the sidewalk of the busy road, all creating a constant dim of voices, footsteps, and the metallic popping of two-stroke engines.
Between the inner and outer Berlin Wall just outside the museum premise lies the stretch of no-man’s-land where up until five years ago young soldiers would patrol while automatic machine guns were pointed at either end of the ideological spectrum. After the Wiederanschluß the city didn’t quite know what to do with this now-defunct militarized zone and chose, in the best Socialist City Planning-way, to wholly ignore it and let it fall to ruins. The guns and landmines have been disabled and removed, but other than that the scar of Berlin is still as it was five years ago.

Nina walks to the section of road traversing the former no-man’s-land, looking for something. It takes a few moments for her to gather her bearings, and then she makes a beeline to a seemingly innocuous piece of brick wall near the Western border gate. This wall used to be part of a building situated between the two posts, but got torn down when the security features were upgraded somewhere in the mid-1970s. The waist-high foundation of the old brick building was left to serve as a tourniquet of sorts, meaning to slow down traffic and dissuading people from simply ramming their way through uninhibited.

She squats down near the wall, one hand stabilizing her as she sits down, the other one touching a small inlaid brick next to a dent in the wall. People walk past, unaware of the significance of this small copper info sign embedded in the masonry. This is where this girl’s life would change forever. The inscription is a little dirty from the rain and grime, staining her sleeve as she wipes it clean.

Nicole Neumann 13.1.1968 - 5.11.1989

The small photo is clearly a photocopy from that in her forged passport she left in the damaged car when she made a run for the western border post. Not the most flattering picture, quickly taken in a back room somewhere near Lichtenberg. Nina looks around. Nobody seems to pay any attention to the fat girl on the sidewalk, nor to any of the other small tiles embedded in various spots along this stretch of road. Markings of history.

With an audible grunt Nina forces herself up to a standing position, taking a moment to gather her strength before moving on. A jolt of pain comes from her leg. That situation hasn’t improved much over the last couple of days. She hobbles to a slightly more secluded spot behind the wall, away from prying eyes, and grabs a cigarette and one of the candy bars she just impulse-bought from her well-worn bag. The blue smoke calms her as it fills her longues, and the promise of a sugary treat makes all the difficult feelings go away.

A slim young girl wearing a ripped pair of jeans and a dark, paint-splattered t-shirt walks up to the spot where Nina just sat, and bends down to touch that particular stone in the wall. The people around her do their best to ignore the girl’s many dangling pocket chains and wild, purple hair.

“Hey du, I know it ain’t right to be here and not someplace else, but this is about all that you left behind, this dent here.” she starts off softly. “At least I know this is one spot that you’ve certainly been on that day and shit, and that’s good enough for me. Plus, if I look at the Spree for long enough I gotta piss so bad… All that water, I dunno… not my thing.” She lights a cigarette she pulled from a pocket. Her eyes follow the lit match as she flick it in a arch towards a piece of dirt next to the sidewalk.
“Shit sis, I miss you! Five years is a fucking long time.” She wipes away a tear, removing a bit of eyeliner in the process.
“Look, we weren’t too happy when you met that Wessie, but you seemed happy enough with that guy, happier than I’d seen you in years. Also, it meant I basically had free range to do my own shit, knowing full well I couldn’t match that level of fucked-up-ness no matter how badly I tried.” The girl wipes a lock of hair out of her heavily made-up face and takes a deep drag from her cigarette.
“And then you got your fat ass pregnant, put Natalya and I under strict orders not to say shit to anyone. You panicked, didn’t know what to do…” She pauses a moment. This is the part that hurt the most.
“Fuck, Nina-girl, I should have never introduced you to to Joachim. Never given you the idea of a Republikflucht. Then you would have just stayed home that day. Wouldn’t have brought down all this shit on yourself, either at this wall or in the Spree. You would have still been around, and I would have been that weird Aunt Lisa-with-the-wild-hair.” A tear rolls off her nose and splashes on the tile in front of her.
“Oh we would have laughed at all the quatsch that’s going on here these days. I totally would have made a place for you and your kid to stay. Cleaned it up a bit, tell Dozer to get off his ass and clear out the crap of our apartment we squatted. But that’s not happening, now is it sis? Goddamn, I hope you’ve found your peace, wherever the fuck you might be. I love you. I still fucking love you.” Lisa bursts into tears. This pain was tucked away for far too long.

Nina heard all of it and doesn’t know what to do. Slowly she turns around to face the slim punk girl just a few meters away. Her own sister. Within arms reach. Shaking as she cowers down near the small memorial tile.

“Lisa!” Nina yells with an unsteady voice.

The girl looks up slightly at the wall. “Y’know, sometimes I swear I can hear you talking. Usually late at night, when Dozer and I have had a few.”

“Lisa! Right here sis!” Nina takes a step forwards and puts a hand on the back of the young girl. Lisa recoils and looks up. Nina can’t help but notice her face looks so much older than twenty-one.

“Du! Nina! You...I... How...But you’re….” Lisa jumps up, her tear-filled eyes wide open in shock and joy. Nina opens her arms and her little sister falls in her warm embrace.

“Shh sweety. I’m here. I’m back. And I won’t leave you again.” she says as her own tears mix with Lisa’s hair. “Never again.”
 

Gooney87

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A few blocks down the two girls have found an Imbiss serving almost-serviceable coffee. Lisa looks at her older sister in disbelief over the rim of her plastic cup.

“I swear to God I thought you were dead. We all did. Have you seen the pictures in the newspaper? I was all impressed at first. I thought you’d faked it somehow, that car was so fucked up you couldn’t be anything else but dead, right? But then, y’know, when I hadn’t heard from you in a few weeks afterwards I assumed your plan had gone wrong somewhere, and that you actually died for real.”

“I get that a lot these days. I can tell you that any reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” Nina says with a smirk.

“But, how did you do it? And on that note, how’s Tom and the little one?” Lisa asks.

Nina grimaces. This question was inevitable. “As far as I know Tom is dead.” She stops to gather her thoughts. “At least, that’s what I thought up until recently at least. What I do know for sure is that there isn’t a little one.”

“But you were…?” Lisa looks down at her sister’s large waist, then back up at her eyes.

“Were, yes. I miscarried in the hospital following this whole adventure.” Nina looks down, avoiding her sister’s stare.

“Shit. So no kid?”

“No kid.” Nina lights up another cigarette. “No aunt Lisa.”

“And what about Natalya?” Lisa looks at her sister’s cigarette. Nina was always so defiantely against smoking. What happened to her? Her eyes are still as blue as ever, but the rest of her is...off. Like she hasn’t slept well in days. Possibly years. And she’s gotten fat. Fatter than she remembered her sister to be. Lisa was always the skinny one, but the contrast is just… overwhelming right now. How heavy would her older sister be? Probably double that of her own 55 kilogram, Lisa reckons.

“As far as I know Natalya doesn’t have any kids either. But then that girl is rather good at keeping secrets, so I can’t be too sure about that.” Nina replies Both girls laugh, but for entirely different reasons. It breaks the tension between the two as both sip their almost-coffee.

“Why are you back in Berlin? I mean, what if the Stasi found out?” Lisa asks concerned. Over the last couple of years she and her friends have had plenty of unpleasantness from the men in raincoats. “They can be a real pain in the ass if they want to.”

“Today marks five years since my life went all topsy-turvy. Also, I have a birthday present for someone. And of course find you guys. I’ve found you, now I’d like to get back in touch with Mutti”

“Good luck with that. She left for some navy base somewhere with that talking asshole pretending to be your dad when everything got fucked around here. And I wasn’t invited to that party.” Lisa balls her fists. “ They left me to rot on the sidewalk of our old appartment. Love you too, mom… No, believe me, you and I are better off just by the two of us. You don’t need that kind of shit in your life.”

“I heard about that, Wolfgang told me. I couldn’t believe him at first. Why would mom leave you and go with him, of all people?” Nina takes another sip of coffee.

“When you have to choose between the perceived safety of a broad-shouldered navy guy offering to take you away to something resembling a normal life, or staying behind and dodging bullets from both sides while one daughter has fucked up her life with drugs and punk music and the other one, the Good Girl, the fucking Chosen Daughter, the one you had an inkling of hope for, left an eloquent suicide letter about how she chucked her fat ass into the Spree and/or drove into a wall at ramming speed while getting shot at, all because she couldn’t be with her baby’s daddy fuckboy Klassenfeind. Well, that’s not exactly a tough choice to make, right?”

“I’d like to think that’s an extremely tough choice.” Nina replies somewhat offended.

“Why? You chose.” Lisa spits back at her sister. “You left me knowing full well that I was going to rot away on this side of the Wall while Tom and you were going to do the white picket fence-shit in Capitalist Surpluss on the other side of the wall?”

Nina looks at the ash falling off her cigarette as she taps it against the side of the ash tray. Don’t get upset. Don’t start a fight. Lisa has every right to be angry after five years, but you’re not going to answer that with more angryness, Nina.
“As soon as it was possible I would have come back for you. I would have tried to smuggle you into the West, and perhaps even mom. Though she seems to be doing just fine in our Glorious Farmer-Labor state.”

“She did. Not anymore.” Lisa says nonchalant.

“What?” A bit of ash falls in her lap and on her cleavage. Nina doesn’t notice.

“Mom downed some pills and a decent amount of booze a few years ago. She’s yet to wake up from that.”

“So Mutti’s..” Nina is shocked, nearly drops her cigaret.

“Yep. I didn’t spent a few days in that fucking awful army camp for nothing, trying to keep myself from grabbing the nearest assault rifle and shooting up the goddamn place for nothing. I was at that funeral.” Lisa looks her sister in the eye. “And this time it wasn’t an empty coffin.”

Nina freezes, her cigarette dangles in mid-air. Her eyes widen as the realisation that her mother is no more starts to set in.

“I know. It freaked me out too when I heard.” Lisa breaks the silence. “I shut down a few days, did everything God and the Partei forbade. But it is what it is. Best to accept it.” the girl takes a careful sip of her coffee.
Silence. Dead silence. Lisa watches her older sister. Nina’s eyes stare off in the distance, seem to shift color from blue to steel gray and back again as presumably a million thoughts shoot through her head. She knows. Lisa has been there. Anger. Sadness. That crushing feeling inside that only a cocktail of drugs seem to quell.

It seems like minutes that Nina stares at the wall. She wants to cry, to shout, to pull her sister across the table and tell her how sorry she is. But she just freezes. Her mother is dead. And that is mostly her fault. Slowly the cigarette is burning towards her fingertips.

“Lis?” Nina starts softly.

“Hmm?”

“Where?”

“Where what, sis?” Lisa replies. Her voice soft, caring. This is not how she expected her afternoon to go.

“Where’s she buried?”

“Travemünde. She wanted to be buried in Berlin, but with that whole pissing match between Bush and Gorby going on in the background the whole funeral scene was dead. Excuse the pun.”

“Scheiße.” Nina feels her stomach turn. Travemünde is all the way in the North, and far beyond the Exclusion Zone where her fake visum has granted her access. No way for her to go there, at least not on short notice.

“Uhuh. So I’m all you’ve got right now. Well, me, and your dad of course, but I can imagine you have very little urge to ever talk to that guy I might imagine.”

“Not quite true.” Nina says as she reaches for her bag to grab a couple of tissues and a fresh cigarette. “You’re forgetting about Elizabeth?”

“Who the fuck is Elizabeth?”
 

Gooney87

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Chapter 17 - Out

The Khamatovs have found residence in a beautiful part of Moscow. With Ivan pulling a few of the Nomenklatura’s favors after Natalya and her family hastily returned to the capital of the USSR, they managed to get the keys to a nice semi-detached house near the Red Square, in an area designated for key members of the USSR’s bureaucratic process. On a clear day you can barely make out the minarets of the Kremlin from the well-maintained back yard. In the summers Nina and Natalya would frequently drop by, having a traditional barbeque in the fire pit, or to simply sit outside and enjoy the relative peace the enclosed garden gives away from the hustle and bustle of the busy city. Ivan and Marlena always liked having the girls over, and like every proper Russian parent, would throw a small feast every time.

Tonight the atmosphere inside the living room is far from festive. Natalya sits on the couch next to her older sister Valentina. Natalya’s hair is pulled back into a messy ponytail and her makeup hastily applied to cover up the puffy eyes from crying all afternoon. She had been to the police this morning, officially filing Nina as a missing person. She has little hope for any official help; the Moscovian police aren't all that interested in finding a girl of questionable legal status. Valentina has put her hand on her young sister’s knee in support as they sit quietly on the couch, the smell of strong coffee still heavy in the air.

“I still don’t fully understand how someone can just...disappear.” her mother says while leaning forward from her comfortable chair to offer the girls some chocolate, proudly displayed on a silver platter. “I mean, one cannot be nowhere. You always have to be somewhere.”

“I know, mom…” Natalya replies while hungrily eyeing a piece of chocolate. If Nina where here there would have been the usual quibble, where Nina would politely deny and make some reference to her expanding waistline, and Natalya would grab the treat and dangle it in front of her friend, who would grab it and eat it eventually, perhaps after some coaxing and telling her that she was beautiful and just a bit curvy.
“... I believe Nina has gone to Berlin. I’m not sure though, she took all her papers and a good wad of cash she had tucked away somewhere. “

“I think she’s off to find that one boy. Probably getting in all sorts of trouble. She’s good at that; doing dumb things and not having an escape strategy.” says her father from his own chair.

“Ivan!” her mother yells from the hallway leading to the kitchen, on the opposite side of the large living room.

“No mom, dad’s right.” Natalya sighs. “Come to think about it, I doubt if Nina was happy being my roommate to begin with. I maybe tried to force it and bit too much, and ended up scaring her off.” She forces away the tears as she quietly adds “It’s all my fault.”

“Come now Tasha, it wasn’t all that bad?” Valentina says as she gently strokes her sister’s somewhat unkempt hair. “You just gave her a couch to sleep on and nothing more, right? You’ll find someone else..” She eyes her parents, trying to steer the conversation away from the inevitable.

“Yeah, and maybe the new roommate will pitch in a bit more around the house.” her mother says. “I mean, Nina is a doll and all, but would it hurt her to pick up a broom now and then?”

“It’s not just that.” Natalya replies. “Over the years we’ve grown far closer to one-another than just roommates.”

“Mostly Nina has done the growing. You, not so much. Maybe in the hips a bit.” Ivan says while smirking to himself in his chair.

“Ivan!” Marlena shouts across the room. “Not funny!” How does that guy always manage to say just the wrong thing at just the right time?

Valentina and Nataliya both pretend that they haven’t heard that, and Natalya puts her hand around her sister, looking for mental support. “We were way more than just roommates, and more than just friends. Or at least, that’s what I thought. I forced her to become much more than that over time, and maybe that was unrealistic of me.”

“I don’t get it. You two are the best of friends, right?” her father says confused. “What more did you want her to be then?”

Natalya looks around the room at her family. This is it. There’s no dancing around it anymore. “Mom, dad, Valya; what I’m trying to say is, I’m lesbian.”
No reaction.
“And in love with that German girl. Have been for years, too.”

Her mother walks to the living room carrying a large tray of food she carefully balances on her hip as she sits down next to the girls on the couch
.
“That’s okay sweetie. If I recall correctly you have an uncle up north who went lesbian for a while.” both her daughters look at her quizzically. “Yeah, he went to the doctor and everything. As long as you stay away from chicken soup and eggs it shouldn’t be much of a problem. Just make sure you eat plenty of raw fish and get all your vitamins, dear.” She pats her daughter on the back and saunters off to the dining room with the tray, leaving Valentina and Natalya in complete confusion, as Ivan indifferently wonders what’s keeping dinner.

Dinner was quiet and awkward. Natalya tried to explain to her parents what exactly it entailed being a lesbian, and that dietery changes had very little to do with it. Even the normally talkative Valentina kept to herself, making a few attempts in vain to sway the subject away from their youngest sibling’s sexuality. After the dinner was over Natalya was quick to make an excuse to go powder her nose. She snuck outside for a cigarette, sitting near a small fire in the snow-covered backyard to gather her thoughts and have a good cry in private, away from the judging eyes of her parents.

“Hey sis...” Valentina begins as she walks outside carrying two steaming mugs of coffee. “...mind if I join?”

Natalya quickly wipes her face on the sleeve of her fur coat, hoping her older sister didn’t see her bawling her eyes out. “Sure.” she says as she motions to the empty spot on the log next to her.

“I figured you could use a good cup of coffee after all …that” Valentina says as she looks towards the house. “I bet you imagined that having a different ending.”

“Thanks Valya.” Natalya says as she grabs the cup with both hands, warming herself on the traditionally-decorated porcelain mug. “I don’t know what I expected, honestly. I hoped that perhaps I’d find a little more sympathy. Understanding would be a bridge too far, but getting the cold shoulder like that…” She shakes her head. “It’s not like I’m contagious or anything.”

“I know, Tasha. But you have to understand that these people live in a different world. I mean, I always sorta figured you were… well… y’know?” Valentina pauses, gauging her sister’s reaction. “You never brought any boys home, and then there was that giant poster of Yelena Kondulaynen you insisted in hanging in our room, remember?” They both smile at the memory of that poster of the blonde actress, proudly displaying her bosoms in a sheer shirt.

“Mom nearly fainted when she saw that.” Natalya smiles. “And dad too, but probably for different reasons.”

“Yeah. After you returned from that Pionieren-camp-thing that one summer I sorta worked it out on my own. I just never figured you’d go for someone like Nina.”

“What’s wrong with Nina, Valya?” Natalya asks sharply.

“Well, I’m sure she’s a sweet girl. A little naive at times though. She’s got those gorgeous eyes, I’ll give her that. But ehh... “ she thinks carefully about her phrasing. “Well, I suppose if you’re into hefty women you could do a whole lot worse than that German girl.” She takes a sip of coffee, contemplating the corner she’s painted herself into.

“I swear, that’s the first thing everyone noticed about her; her fat rolls, followed by her boobs and her belly. Not necessarily in that order. But does anyone ever take the time to look beyond her chub and notice that she has the absolute bluest eyes you’ve ever seen? Or that when she smiles she has those cute little dimples in her cheeks? And when she wears her hair down her ears stick through and she looks like a little tiny mousey? No. Everyone is all like ‘Oh Nina, you’d be so pretty if only you would lose all that weight’ and ‘Oh Nina, you must eat less, such a shame’ and all that bullshit. No, everyone gets hung up about the fact that she has a few kilos more than the average stick-thin, no-curves-having, body-of-a-12-year-old-boy supermodel you see on the cover of a magazine. Ugh!” Natalya rolls her eyes. She’s watched Nina shrivel up every time someone told her she needed to lose weight, the German girl resigning to a well-worn ‘yes, I’m trying…’ before suling away, and has had quite enough of it.

“Sheesh Tasha, calm down. I meant nothing by it. I’m not judging. I’m sure that what you have together is great. And how nice is it that your childhood best friend is...ehh..., swings that way too?” Valentina says.

“I’m pretty sure that underlies this whole thing. I never outright told her about, well, how I am. I was just always there for her. Helping her. Loving her. Like she deserved, after that whole вздор wit that Dutch guy. I guess I hoped she’d eventually fall into my arms, look at me and whisper in that cute little accent of hers ‘Och Tasha, Ich have been zstupid and have everytsing I could ever need or vant right hier wizz you.’ But no, instead she’s still hung up about that jerk and the whole Berlin thing, and now I’ve lost her, probably for good. It’s been two weeks and I sincerely doubt if she’s ever coming back.” Natalya sighs and takes another sip of coffee. She looks up at the starry skies, wondering that Nina’s doing right now.
 

Gooney87

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Chapter 18 - Three’s a bad idea

“Tonight, festivities are expected to run high as the city of Berlin gears up to celebrate its fifth anniversary after the much-celebrated Wiederanschluß five years ago.” a blonde woman wearing a sharp blazer matched only by her large blonde hairdo, says to the news camera. In the background, a bightly-lit Palast der Republik is visible over the large, open square of the Alexanderplatz. “Behind me, in our national congress, president Egon Krenz is preparing a speech to be delivered to the people of the Deutsche Demokratische Republik, broadcast live throughout the Farmer-Labor state here on the Aktuelle Kamera.” The newscaster smiles, and with a nod sends the report back to the studio. A heavyset man wearing a khaki suit thanks her, and steers the subject towards something else.

Nina sighs and turns her attention away from the small black-and-white tv in a corner of a bare living room, overlooking the truly decrepit state her sister’s current abode is in. Bare rooms are sparsely decorated with unreadable words and symbols spray painted on the walls. In the middle of the living room a large couch functions as the social center for Lisa and her group of friends who inhabit this place. Nina tries her best to ignore the mould stains and empty liquor bottles littering the entirety of the condo, trying not to touch any surfaces deemed too unsanitary.

“So how long have you been living here?” Nina asks, raising her voice mid-sentence to compensate for the loud and obnoxious punk music suddenly blasting from an Amiga boombox stashed in the far corner of the room.

“Dozer’s been living here for… three years or something?” Lisa says as she looks at the mop-haired, stick-thin guy in-between the two sisters on the couch. “And I’ve been crashing here for just about as long.”

The guy turns towards Nina, using one finger to move his long, black bangs away from his face so he can see. He slowly nods at Nina before diverting his attention back to the joint between his fingers.

“And where have you been staying before that?” Nina asks “Because I heard that our old home had been rented out fairly quickly after the whole exodus.”

“Oh, here and there. I spent a while at our old neighbor’s house, but that didn’t quite work out. Then I just started wandering around. So one night you’ll be out on the streets, trying to find a comfortable park bench or something, while other nights I fell in the grace of the kindness of strangers and found myself hooked up with a hot shower and a warm bed. A sad story every now and then about how your home got all fucked up and you’ve lost your family and now you’re all cold and alone really goes a long way. Nobody really paid any attention to me, they were all too busy trying to navigate this brave new shithole world we found ourselves in. Well, and then I bumped into Dozer here by accident at Tacheles and heard he had his own place here in Lichtenberg. I chatted with him, one thing led to another, and that settled it.” Lisa smiled while giving the boy a wink. “By the way, the Doll’s House at Tacheles really became a great hangout! We’ll have to go there someday. You remember the place, right? That one house with the rear facade that fell down?”

Nina nods. She remembers. That’s where she met Joachim Brandt, the man she gave her body to, just to be set up with a contraband-filled car to drive across the border. The man who would fuck her up for the rest of her life, the very reason why she has a gunshot wound in the leg. She still sometimes sees his sweaty face hovering over her late at night while he mumbles something about adequate payment for a fake ID.
 

Gooney87

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“It’s very kind of Dozer to let you stay here in this little palace of his!” Nina says as she looks around at the full ashtrays, broken windows, and filthy floors, trying to change the subject away from her past trauma.

“Yeah. It’s not like I don’t repay him for it though.” Lisa says with a wink. “I trip-sit, help him keep his uppers from his downers, and of course I absolutely bang his brains out on the regular, right lovey-dove?” She pokes the lanky kid next to her. He responds with a muffled grunt.

Nina tries to shake the thought of her sister and this junkie having crazy, drug-fueled sex as quick as she can.

“So if you wanna stay here and crash for a while you’re more than welcome to. We only have one bed, but I’m sure it’s big enough for all of us, even you.” Lisa smiles.

Dozer looks at both sisters and gives a sly grin. From behind his long bangs an approving sound is heard. Two Müllers in the same bed. Alright-alright.

“Thanks for that. But I’m already staying over at someone I know from Hochschule.” Nina quickly replies. She does not want to get involved in all of this mess.

“Fine by me.” Lisa replies. “Hey, I don’t need to know who you’ve hypnotized with your honkers to provide you with room and board.” She turns away from her sister.
Dozer looks at Nina, doing his best to maintain eye contact and at the same time casually peer down her shirt. Nina shrugs. No idea what Lisa’s talking about.
“But anyway, you’re back among the living dead here in Berlin, and that calls for celebration!” Lisa turns towards the hole in the wall where previously the kitchen would have been situated. “Freddy! A bottle of your finest booze please.”

“Sure thing doll!” a short blonde kid wearing a white stained shirt replies from the back of the condo.

Nina looks at Lisa “Doll?”

“Well, when you’re the only non-lesbian woman of the opposite sex, so to say, in your group you get certain… privileges?” Lisa says as she pours down a shot of whiskey she had next to the couch. The drink burns its way down her esophagus. She fills the glass and hands it to her sister.

“Non-what?” Nina replies as she tries to swallow a similar amount of alcohol. It tastes roughly how it smells; like industrial solvent. She coughs, handing the small container back to her sister.

“The only non-gay girl. I mean, the other woman in this group of fuckwads is Bitch, who is currently away doing...I-don’t-give-a-fuck, but she’s not into guys so these lazy asses don’t do shit for her. Whereas with me, all the boys think they’ve got a shot at this hotness so they get me my booze and cigarettes, and call me ‘doll’.” Lisa runs her hands over her thin body. Nina looks at her. She always was the skinny one, but years of living like this has reduced her to almost nothing. What would she weigh, fifty kilos max? “Living like a rock star. That’s the only way to fly if you ask me.” Lisa lights her cigarette in a grand gesture while leaning back on the broken couch, downing yet another shot of whiskey Freddy poured for her.

“What do you mean, non-gay? What is this girl’s type then?” Nina asks.

“Meins Gott sis. Under what rock have you been living? Bitch is into chicks. She eats fish tacos. Flips the other switch. She doesn’t like sausages. Does the horizontal mambo with women.” Lisa bumps her two fists together to further the point. “Get it? And from what I’ve gathered she’s a titty-girl, so if we ever bump into her I’m sure you’ll have some sway on her. God knows your tits have got plenty of sway on their own.” Lisa says while eying her sister’s fat body, billowing out of her nearly-conservative-enough clothing. She pokes her in her left breast. Nina jumps, shaking everything and furthering Lisa’s point. “Bitch is a sucker for busty girls. Her current girlfriend still ain’t got shit on you though.”

Dozer seizes the opportunity and stares directly and unashamedly at Nina’s body. He nods slightly. Sure, Lisa’s all nimble and bendy, but he’s sure a girl that size would be fun in the sack too.

Still a bit offended Nina replies “Well, just because a woman chooses to share her bed with another woman doesn’t make her a gay lesbian rightaway. I mean, I’ve been sharing a bed with Natalya for the past couple of years, and that doesn’t make us two lovers, right?” Nina looks down, slightly saddened. “I’d still like a sausage from time to time…”

“And does she gently caress your back when you’re sad? Whispers sweet nothings to you? Or just flat out throws her arm around you and starts messing with those juggs of yours, hmm?” Lisa gives her sister a piercing stare.

Slowly the point comes across on Nina’s face as she realises that yes, this is exactly what’s been going on between her and her roommate. The whispered gentle words of admiration when Natalya thought Nina had already fallen asleep. Her amazing back rubs that sometimes extended a little too far down or forwards for Nina’s comfort, but were so good regardless. The showers together because otherwise the hot water would run out where Natalya was a little too eager to playfully use her body as a loofa on Nina.
“So you think….?” Nina is taken aback. Not only are there women who don’t like men as partners, but she’s been living with one for years without noticing anything.

“Looks like it, sis. And you’re her squishy object of affection.” Lisa says with a wink.

“But why did she pick me? We’ve known eachother since Hochschule. She knows I’m not….y’know…” Nina bumps her fists together. “At least, I’d like to think so. I do miss sausages.”

Suddenly a voice tries to out-scream the old boombox blaring out from the corner. “Right, are you ladies going to gossip over tea and boys the whole night or are we actually going to party?” Freddy asks from the kitchen. “Because a little birdie told me there’s a great party at the Great Party downtown. And we’re bringing the noise.”

“Sounds good!” Lisa replies. “Nina, you wanna come with? Grab some fresh air?”

Nina thinks for a moment. She’s not sure what they mean with ‘bringing the noise’ to the great party downtown, but a night out on the town with her long-lost sister and her, admittedly, rag-tag group of friends isn’t the worst way to spend an otherwise lost Saturday-evening.

“Hey, and since you’re coming you’re in charge of the snacks.” Lisa says while handing her sister a small brown baggie with some pink pills. “Stuff it down your bra or something. They’ll never search there, they’d need a map and a flashlight to find anything down there.” She says with a grin.

“Snacks?” Nina says as she digs through the blisters of pills, bags of powder and other items she can’t readily identify. “This looks like the content of a pharmacy. What is this stuff?”

“Good snacks, trust me. Those pink pills in particular. One pill and the world suddenly gets alot better than before. Two and you’re dancing on the goddamn moon.” Lisa says. “And three? Well, ask our psychonaut here.” while nudging Dozer.

“Three’s a bad idea.” Dozer says lazily.

“We had to pull him out of the U-bahn because he was certain the train was looping in the tunnel and the doors were on fire or some shit.” Lisa says.

“Three’s a really fucking bad idea.” Dozer confirms as he takes another drag from his long-extinguished joint, waiting for a high that’ll never come.

“Meine Leute! Wer hat Lust darauf?” Freddy shouts from the kitchen while stuffing a few rags in bottles. A harmonious, alcohol-fueled roar from the group confirms their state of readiness.

Nina looks at Lisa as her sister downs another shot of whiskey and throw the small glass at the tv displaying an image of the president of the DDR. “Tonight we go to the streets and bring the noise. Five years is more than long enough! Time to eject Krenz and his buddies from the Palast.”

As the group moves out the door and down the rickety stairwell Nina is starting to suspect that a night on the town has a completely different meaning for her than it does for the rest of the group.
 

Gooney87

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Joined
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Messages
54
Location
The Netherlands
It’s quite cold out on the streets near the Palast. A group of about fifty young people have gathered on one of the broad avenues leading towards the large hall, tucked deep into their scarfs and coats. Some have brought banners and signs proclaiming their dislike of the current regime, others brought radios blasting punk music into the night’s sky. Lisa is walking with her head held high. The people around her are her people, her world. This is their time to make a markt on history.

Slowly the large group snakes their way towards the Palast der Republik. What they want exactly nobody is quite clear on, all they know is they want things done differently. The phrases on the banners reflect their dissatisfaction. “Stasi ‘Raus!’ and “Pressefreiheit” are mixed with crossed-out pictures of Egon Krenz, party leader of the ruling SED and thereby de-facto president of the GDR.

As the group nears their destination, tensions start to rise. In the brightly-lit building up ahead the higher-ups have a social event that is just begging to be rudely interrupted. Nina and Lisa are up front, leading one of the smaller groups towards the growing crowd at the Palast. Nina feels uncertain about all of this. As she looks up at the high-rise building lining the streets she sees people shutting their curtains or even putting wooden boards in front of their windows. Clearly this isn’t the first time something like this has happened, and the end results were apparently rather violent. As Nina turns her head she sees the bright blue lights of the police cars reflected on the wet streets behind them. She turns her head and looks at her sister who still holds her chest forward and her head high, completely oblivious of anything but her rowdy group of ragtags.

“Say Lis, you know we’re being followed by police cars on three sides now?” she shouts at her sister.

Lisa nods. “I don’t care. Those Scheiß-Grünen can get fucked. They can’t do anything to us now. We have the right on our side!” Lisa shouts back. Dozer nods, though half-heartedly. He’s still got the bite marks in his legs from a police dog the last time Lisa was convinced the cops couldn’t touch them. The blonde girl takes another swag from a bottle she carries under her coat, and passes the liquor to Nina.“Liquid courage, sis. You sound like you need it.”

Nina takes a drink from the bottle. The taste is horrible, but at the minimum it’ll keep her warm in the frigid night air. She takes another look backwards. A sense of dread accompanies the temporary warmth the alcohol gave her.

The large building ahead is lined with the cameras and lights of several international news crews. They originally came to document the festivities in and near the Palast, but as more and more protesters gathered their cameras got pointed towards the group outside on the large parking lot.

Nina keeps to the side a bit. She’s never been one for large crowds. Her hands are freezing cold, while a chill runs over her back as she looks over the crowd of people gathered. A party, Lisa said. Some party this is. She sticks her hands in her coat pocket for warmth. Off in the distance Lisa exchanges a few words with one of those dark creeps as the crowd around them begins to chant things. Nina just wants to go home, not be here, but she’s made a promise to Lisa and feels like she should protect her little sister from whatever’s about to go down here.

Slowly the crowd comes to a halt in front of the Palast. Inside men in suits, backlit by the interior lights, draw giant curtains, shielding the men inside from the protestors. There’s no need to bother anyone with what’s going on outside.

The flashing lights from the police cars seem to draw nearer, and slowly the chants are supplemented by the angry commands shouted through bullhorns belonging to the combined Berlin police forces. At the front of the protest, things start to turn. With the closing of the curtains the signal was given to just simply be louder. Meanwhile, at the back the police decide that they’re outmanned and fall back to their cars and vans. All that is needed now is a small spark. One little thing to ignite both sides. A single brick chucked through one of the Palasts' many ground floor windows provides that incentive, and sets the situation alight. Fights between the law enforcers and the punks protesting start to break out left and right as the bullhorns get swapped for riot shields, and the signs and banners for clubs and other improvised weapons.

Amidst all this Nina is trying to keep up with her sister running around the place. Sure, holding a sign she was handed earlier isn’t all too difficult, but as Lisa and her gang get more and more destructive Nina finds herself torn between the instinct to protect and take care of her, and the gut feeling that they should be pretty much anywhere but here.
 

Gooney87

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Joined
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Messages
54
Location
The Netherlands
From the empty and wet streets a low roar is heard over the crowd. Nina falls silent for a moment, trying to place that sound. She’s heard it before… That rumble combined with metallic clacking.
Then it hits her. The same sound as the NVA made when the Wiederanschluss was well underway.
“Lisa! They’ve got a damn tank! We really need to go, like, sofort!”

Lisa doesn’t hear her sister’s warnings. From the corner of the square a large water canon starts spraying people to keep them away from the entrance of the Palast. Agile she dives under a low-flying piece of wood, only to find herself looking straight at two men in uniform. She pulls a butterfly knife from her pocket and swings it at the men.

“Any of you Arschlogs come any closer and I’ll ventilate every last motherfucking one of you.” she screams at the top of her lungs. It seems to have a slight effect on them, stalling their progress towards the young girl.

Finally Nina has caught up with Lisa. She grabs her shoulder and starts pulling her away.
“Sis, please.”she pleads “We really have to get the hell out of here. This isn’t safe anymore.”

Lisa wrestles away from her grasp and pushes the police officer in front of her back into the crowd. He loses his balance and screams a couple of things into his walkie-talkie.
“I’m not going anywhere! We’re here to get heard, not to get shoved around by the man! Safety is for squares” she proclaims proudly as she watches the cop get dragged off by two punks with mohawks.

“Seriously! The army has shown up, and they’ve! Got! Tanks!” Nina shouts while looking over her shoulder. “What if they start shooting? Or mow us down?!”

A group of soldiers emerge from the crowd in front of the two girls with their riot shields forwards. Nina recoils in terror, but Lisa charges forwards. Nina wants to run, panic strikes her heart. All she can do is watch as her sister pulls out a bottle from her bag and stuffs a rag in it.
“What the hell are you going to do, offer them a drink?!” Nina asks.

“Oh, I can offer them something alright.” Lisa says with a wry smile on her face. She lights the alcohol-soaked rag and throws the flaming bottle at the soldiers with all the force she can muster. It explodes against a riot shield, engulfing it in a fireball. She feels the heat, and can smell the burning alcohol. Lisa starts cackling with laughter. This is too perfect. She looks down and finds a large wooden post, probably left over from a destroyed sign. That’ll do quite nicely as a weapon.

Nina sees an opportunity as her sister inspects the piece of wood. She snatches one of Lisa’s hands and drags her away from it all towards a nearby U-bahn entry. She’s going to hide there with her sister and wait this whole thing out, whether Lisa wants it or not.

“What the fuck are you doing?” Lisa objects as she gets dragged towards the big blue sign. She manages to squirm loose from Nina’s grip and take a few steps .
“If you want to run like a little bitch then go. By all means. But don’t you ever come back to Dozer and me. I came here to make a point, and your fat ass isn’t going to keep me from it. If you want to be a square cunt then by all means, run. Run to your little boyfriend. That’s what you’re good at, right? Running the hell away?”
Lisa stands tall in front of her sister, looking her straight in the eyes.

Nina tries to steady her breathing as she looks at her sister. Furious. Her eyes seem to be lit up by blue lightning. How can her sister be this stupid? Can’t she see that she’s only trying to keep her safe? She catches her breath, ready to start yelling at her sister when she sees a couple of soldiers approaching, clearly looking for the girl who just offered them a hot drink. The color quickly fades from Nina’s face as her expression shifts from anger to complete terror. Her cry is muffled by the sharp crack of a baton impacting Lisa’s skull.

Nina starts panicking. Everything seems to slow down as she peers at Lisa’s chest to check if she’s still breathing. All the chaos around her fades away as she witnesses her sister's frail arms twitch a few times before coming to a rest next to her body. Her heart races as she the men are coming towards her. She wants to run to her sister there on the cold, wet ground in front of her, but her mind is telling her to get out of there as quickly as she can. But she can’t leave Lisa. Not again. Her heart is pounding in her chest as the adrenaline kicks her heart rate through the roof.
Fight or flight.
Fight.
Flight.

A hand grabs Nina’s wrist, snapping her back to reality. In a reflex she pulls back and slaps it. As she turns she looks into the rather surprised face of Dozer. She points to Lisa, unable to make a sound to explain what happened. Dozer looks at her, then at the wooden post Nina is still holding. She can see the wheels in his head turn.

“...This is not….” she stammers and drops the post. “I didn’t….”

His nostrils flare as his hands bawl into fists. “Run.”

Run. This single word reverbs through her mind. Slowly she backs away, only turning around when there’s a bit of distance between her and the grief-stricken boy holding her sister’s limp body. Behind them people are getting beat up and escorted away left and right. This is her only chance. One last look at Lisa. Then she makes a run for it. Away from this situation and towards safety. Around her small fires are lit as the voice of the law tries to command people to comply peacefully as they are being forcefully shoved into arriving vans.

Nina doesn’t notice it anymore. She runs towards the blue sign faster than she’s run in years, possibly ever. Tears streaming down her face. Her entire body is protesting against this sudden bout of exercise. Her clothing is ill-equipped to properly support her, her heaving bosoms nearly knocking the wind out of her as she maneuvers her fat body through the crowd. Unable to see her own feet she almost trips on the stairs, but grabbing the rail at the last moment prevents a painful tumble. The adrenaline is masking the searing pain of her muscles burning and her heart pumping hard to provide her fat body with blood.

Down the stairs into the main hall she bolts. On the platform a train is getting ready to depart. If she’s quick she can make it through its doors before they close, cutting off her pursuers. She jumps over the short gates between the main level and the platforms, catching her foot behind one of the metal fences. With a loud thud she lands on the cold floor, sliding forward a few meters on her knees and elbows. Something goes snap in her left leg. A white-hot pain shoots through her entire body. Painfully she tries to sit up, steadying herself against the metal railing. She’s panting, sweat is making her clothing stick to her skin, and a dull pain in her chest is not letting up. With large gulps she tries to take in as much air as she can, unable to muster up the strength or balance to stand up again. Nina’s eyes follow the train as it pulls into the tunnel, lighting up the darkness with its electric flashes. \
A couple of people look at the fat girl on the floor, speaking of their disdain for whatever new-fangled drug these kids are on nowadays and shaking their heads.
 

Gooney87

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Joined
Dec 1, 2019
Messages
54
Location
The Netherlands
Chapter 19 - Old pain

Natalya sighs as she slumps down on the couch, cradling a bowl of soup from the giant pot her sister made for her. After she left her parents’ house with her sister she felt a little odd. Glad that she no longer had to live a lie, avoiding every question about her marital plans or when she’d finally meet a nice fellow and settle down with him; but at the same time the cold shoulder of her parents ran deep. Especially now, without Nina to snuggle up on the couch and comfort her. She had a good cry with her sister in the kitchen, which helped, but not by much.

In the corner the small tv is showing the news. Natalya half-watches it, more to make sure that she knows what her co-workers are talking about at the water cooler tomorrow than any real vested interest in the topics presented. It’s always much of the same topics. Some local news, some international affairs and how the USSR is about to beat the entire world at a random sporting event, the usual. This broadcast follows the same rough outline; some local news about a factory exceeding the planned production, followed by a smiling presenter in front of a map of the GDR. Natalya leans forward a bit, curious about the news from her friend’s motherland.

“Tonight, the lives of Egon Krenz, president of our German brotherstate, and much of his entourage were under threat from thousands of youths. The unruly kids had gathered in great numbers in front of the German Volkshalle in Berlin. What was to be a night of cheerful celebration quickly turned sour for the politicians as outside fires were ignited and rioters destroyed public property.” a blonde woman says as behind her the blue flashes of police vehicles can be seen sweeping the large area in front of the Palast.
“Fortunately, the People’s own police force were quick to respond. Though heavily outmanned they quickly quelled the rioters’ destructive spirit and sent them home with a stern reprimand. Though some refused to cooperate.” a voice says as images of young people being forced into vans roll across the screen.

Natalya nearly drops her spoon as the tv shows a rather heavyset young woman runs across the screen, followed by a shot of a young blonde punker girl being carried away, bleeding profusely.
Natalya feels her breathing quicken as her heart sinks and panic sets in. That was Nina, and she is in danger!
“Oh you. Why’d you have to get involved in that!” she cries out, realizing there’s nothing she can do but watch the tv from her living room in Moscow.

The news anchor segways into another subject, leaving the Russian girl nearly breathless on the couch. Sure, she knew deep down inside that Nina would go to Berlin. And while it is comforting to know for sure where she is, it’s clear that she’s in danger. Clearly someone in that war zone persuaded her to join those no-goods and start causing trouble. She needs to rescue her, tell her that this is all a bad idea and she needs to come home. But Berlin is closed for her. Sure, the GDR government is just now starting to let people from the west in, bringing money and trade goods with them, as a goodwill gesture to the estranged ex-Wessies in the former Bundesrepublik, but it’s not like Natalya can just go out and ask a random person ‘Hey, could you drop everything you’re doing and travel to this political hotbed to rescue my obese wannabe-girlfriend?’

Or does she? She gives that little green book she found in Nina’s closet a sideways glance. What if….

On the small table, next to a rather traditional shaded lamp, sits a white bakelite telephone. Anyone who has a phone line gets one of those dinosaurs in their home. Completely indestructible and with more than enough room inside for any and all matters of eavesdropping equipment, should that need ever arise. Natalya grabs the little green book next to it, and looks for a familiar name. But how the hell do you start a conversation like that? With a well-meant ‘hello’ presumably, but then what? She sighs, and downs another shot of vodka as her trembling fingers rotate the dial. This is not the call she wanted to make, but she must. For Nina. This is her only chance.

The echo of a phone booms through the living room of an apartment in Amsterdam-Noord. The living room is messy, and there are two young people on the couch watching a movie on tv. The volume is up, way up, and so the phone goes unheard for the two. A young man and a woman are sitting on the couch, a bowl of chips between them. On the large screen in front of them an image of a dinosaur snapping at a wet man wielding a torch, trying to guide the creature away from an overturned Ford Explorer. The mighty roar of the T-rex echoes through the valley of Isla Nubar, out the speakers of the Sony, through the living room, encapsulating the two in sound. The phone keeps ringing, unheard.

“Ian! Freeze! Grab the kids!” the man on the tv shouts, drowning out the cordless phone on the table. The room falls silent for a moment, the tension is felt.
Another roar, another simultaneous ring from the phone. No reaction from the people on the couch as both grab another hand of chips at the same time. Her hand brushes his and the young woman turns slightly red. Sure, they’ve been friends for years, but as she watches his face she can feel that pang of more-than-friends inside her.

¨Nicole, was that the phone?” the young man asks suddenly, turning the volume down with the remote next to him.

She giggles as on-screen a toilet building is destroyed. “What a way to go, on the can. Let it ring, Tom. No-one’s gonna call you at this hour.” she says.

“I dunno, might be important. Why else would they call at this hour?” he replies as he gets off the couch, brushing Nicole’s hand away from his leg. She sighs. So much for movie night with her best friend. She leans back and watches Tom walk to the cupboard in the far corner of the room.

“D’you mind if I…” she gestures at the tv. Tom gives her a thumbs up as he answers the cordless handset and walks into the next room of his apartment. Nicole leans over the couch and grabs the remote. One green block on the screen confirms the volume coming back ever so softly as she brushes her long brown hair out of her round face. Maybe tonight, maybe not, she thinks to herself as she closes a button on her shirt she conspicuously left open for the entire evening.

The action on screen fails to capture her imagination. She worries about Tom. Though he rarely speaks of that one girlfriend he had behind the Iron Curtain she can tell he’s still mentally occupied with it all. She was there when he wrote that final letter to Nina, saying his goodbyes. She held him when he cried, and told her what a great friend she was for supporting him. Ever since the two rarely bring it up again, and she doesn’t mind. Tom needed to move on, find himself a nice girlfriend. Someone local. Someone who lives two streets over, like her. Someone who will randomly show up with a rented VHS and a bag of chips on the exact five-year anniversary of that time he got arrested in some god-forsaken Communist shithole.

Nicole looks at the clock. He’s been on the phone for fifteen minutes now. That’s some call late in the evening. She turns the volume down again, trying to eavesdrop on whatever’s going on in the next room. She doesn’t hear much, but a muffled “Oh my God, I had no idea.” makes her think it’s not exactly a light social call. She shakes her head. Oh, the trouble that man gets into. Whatever it is, she’ll be ready for him. She refills the bowl of chips from the bag just to be sure, and hits pause on the VCR. WIth a bit of luck she might be able to rewind it to the point where Tom left the room, she ponders as she studies the rather complicated remote.
 

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