Maragana Girl Ch. 21bycaligula97236©
Chapter 21 -- The Danubian Spring
"Socrates' Mistresses" returned to the national stage on May 1, once again performing for the Danubian public. Like the year before, the group performed live in Danube City's Central Plaza as part of the May Day Celebrations. Once again the deputies and staff-members of the National Parliament lined up on the rooftop and balconies of the old building to take advantage of their privileged viewing opportunities.
However, the crowd was much larger during the band's second May Day performance and included large numbers of foreign fans. It was obvious that any other group performing that day simply was a warm-up for Danube City's favorite lead singer, so the other Danubian modern musical groups stepped aside for ones that specialized in traditional folkloric music.
"Socrates Mistresses" put out a grueling performance of three full hours, as the crowd shouted "DOC-DOC ELOISA... DOC-DOC ELOISA... DOC-DOC ELOISA..." between songs. Eloisa was a bit taken aback by her popularity and became visibly more nervous as the concert wore on. She looked over her shoulder at her back-up singers several times with a frightened expression. Finally, the lead singer signaled Kim to join her at the main microphone for a series of duets. Eloisa needed Kim's reassuring presence at her side, as she finally comprehended the awesome success the band was becoming. With Kim present, the magic returned to Eloisa's voice. It was at that moment Kim realized how much Eloisa truly needed her.
The group performed again the second week in May, to another outdoor concert almost as large as the May Day crowd. This time there were even more foreign fans, some of whom were fascinated at the thought their favorite group lived and performed in the nude. There were numerous television interviews following the second concert, including in-depth interviews with Kim in English from British and German television companies.
The following week a major US entertainment magazine picked up on Kim's story and did a detailed feature on her participation in the Danubian music scene. Criminal # 98945 posed for several pictures, most of which were from the chest up. However, she also posed for a full-body shot, in which she turned sideways and crossed her legs to comply with US censorship rules. The magazine wanted its readers to know that, yes indeed, Kimberly Lee had not worn any clothing for nearly two years as a condition of her sentence.
Kim, for the first time, discussed her views on drugs with the US press. She described her trial and sentence, trying to emphasize that she felt what had happened to her ultimately was extremely fortunate. She discussed the experiences that led to the writing of "A question I cannot answer", the immensely sad retelling of her conversation with her mother as they discussed Susan's death in Prague and her own narrow escape from a similar fate. She went on to describe the origins of a second song she had largely written herself, titled "Marooned". The second song focused on Kim's decision the year before to stay in Upper Danubia rather than return to the US and risk being unemployed and getting back on drugs.
There were further questions about how Kim became a friend of the Danubian singers, and the path that led her from participation as a back-up singer to singing partner to co-leader of the band. She discussed her plans for the future: marriage and a career as a Danubian Spokeswoman for the Criminal. The interviewers clearly were fascinated with the story as the interview went much longer and in much greater detail than they previously had envisioned.
The magazine feature about "Socrates' Mistresses" was an important step in the group's rise to popularity in the US market. The piece became much more important for the magazine's June 1 issue than the editors originally had planned. Apart from Kimberly Lee's full-body sideways portrait, the magazine also included numerous facial shots and a couple photos of Kim and Eloisa singing together, cut off just below their shoulders. The editor decided to include a second full-body shot of the two lead singers in concert, taken from behind and showing the large crowd of fans in the background. The editor defended the shot by saying: "This is their reality, and you can't censor the truth."
Kim did not return to work for Victor Dukov during the final spring of her sentence. She regretted not having the opportunity to ride her bicycle around Danube City and get paid for it, but she needed the three days per week to finish her university classes and attend to the growing needs of Eloisa's band.
When Kim visited Victor's office to justify not returning to work for him, she had a bit of a surprise when she saw his office. Victor clearly was about to re-direct the focus of his business, because there were a large number of fax machine promotional pamphlets on his desk. Victor explained that the Danubian Parliament was debating legislation to allow some business and legal documents to be faxed instead of forcing them to be delivered in person. The law was one of many measures Upper Danubia had to implement to get ready to join the European Community and it was getting very little attention from the public. Victor, however, foresaw the arrival of fax machines eventually would reduce Danube City's need for bicycle couriers and potentially ruin his business if he could not adapt. He was getting ready for the change by importing fax machines from abroad. As soon as the legislation passed, Victor would open a fax machine store and over time curtail his bicycle business as more local businesses started using faxes. Already he was preparing to send two of his couriers abroad to receive training for servicing and repairing fax machines. As time went on and the need for bicycle couriers slowly diminished, one by one he would send his other employees abroad for training.
"For a while I will offer both fax machines and courier services, but the change is coming." Victor was reflective, but a bit sad about the impending transition in his business. "The courier services in our country go back many years, but I'm afraid that's one of the things we'll have to give up to modernize."
In the late spring Mrs. Dolkiv finally accepted the American "Maragana Girl" as Sergekt's future wife. Kim noted the difference as her fiancee's mother began treating her with warmth and kindness, as opposed to a distant cold tolerance. The change began very slowly in the fall, right after the forest fires were put out, but it was not until after the second Easter that Kim's future mother-in-law became truly nice as opposed to just courteous.
Although she did everything she could to keep her doubts about Criminal # 98945 to herself, secretly Mrs. Dolkiv had hoped at some point her son would break up with that Asian drug-addict. However, the American had proved herself a worthy woman time and time again, to the point it was obvious Sergekt could not find a better partner. Sergekt would marry the "Maragana Girl", study his hydrology, and live the path the Ancients had laid out for him. His mother knew that he was happy, happier than he had been at any time since his father had died, which was what mattered.
Mrs. Dolkiv finally accepted it was time to put her prejudges aside and treat her future daughter-in-law properly. She and Sergekt's aunt began taking up some of Kim's precious spare time by inviting her to shop and cook, taking her to the nearby temple, and teaching her some protocol the Dukovs had overlooked. Kim was not particularly thrilled about doing any of those activities, but she understood it was necessary to accept the invitations offered by her future in-laws. Kim was happy enough to have finally ingratiated herself that she took the time needed to build up the relationship, one that would be crucial for a peaceful marriage in the future.
Kim and her friends spent the final two months of their sentences in very upbeat moods. The stress of university classes passed, their bodies finally could enjoy the warm late spring weather, and the impending promise of freedom beckoned. Kim marveled at the change in the entire group, a change that was real, and reflected, among other things, in the music Eloisa was choosing for her group's rehearsals and recordings.
The evenings at the Socrates Club were full of happy discussions about plans and hopes for the future. Psychologically the group already was making the transition to becoming free citizens, as they discussed clothes they wanted to buy and places outside the Danube City collar zone they wanted to visit. Many of the group's members planned to travel to provincial cites to visit grandparents and other relatives the week after their release, others simply wanted to relax at the campgrounds and beaches of the Rika Chorna Reservoir.
There were plenty of wedding plans for that summer. Most of the group's members wanted to get married. There were 5 couples within the group itself, including Kim and Eloisa and their partners, as well as 12 other members who were engaged to people who had not been part of the original 28 students convicted after the riot. The desire among all of the couples was to have a normal settled life as quickly as possible, even though Kim doubted the maturity of some of Sergekt's friends. Now was a time for dreaming, but reality would set in once the group's collars were off.
Kim and Sergekt were among the couples who planned to get married later in the year. Considering the hectic summer that lay ahead, the couple decided the best time to get married would be in the fall, possibly on October 18th, Kim's 21st birthday. Kim felt that marrying Sergekt would be the perfect 21st birthday present for her.
When Kim discussed her possible wedding plans with Vladim Dukov, he made it very clear that he expected her to stay at his house until she was properly married. Dukov's statement came as no surprise to Kim, since she knew that "living together" was unheard of in the socially conservative Duchy. An unmarried person always lived with a relative. In the rare cases when no relative was available, as was the case for Malka Chorno, then an unmarried person almost always lived in the household of an older person or family.
Dukov made it clear to Kim that as long as she remained in his house, the rules, protocol, and expectations of proper behavior would remain in effect. Her status in the household would not change at all, in spite of her change from convicted criminal to free US citizen with a transition visa. The Dukovs never treated Kim any differently than they would treat any other single young woman who was a member of their household.
Over the winter the US exchange student Jennifer Thompson took her studying of the Danubian language more seriously, mostly so she could communicate with her classmates and join them in what social activities were available to high school students. She joined the girls' soccer team and did very well. She began swimming and exercising more. By the end of the school year she in great physical shape and actually was enjoying her time in the Duchy. Most importantly, Anyia taught her friend that it was possible to be rebellious in Upper Danubia, just not in the way Jennifer had envisioned.
There was one significant act of rebellion open to the teenagers. During the spring both of them started dating convicted criminals. The two high-school girls took delight in parading their naked boyfriends around Danube City. Jennifer distressed her parents by having Anyia take several photographs of her dressed in her school uniform and standing arm-in-arm with her naked boyfriend. She delighted in sending them home to her father. That'll stress-out my dear old Dad, thought Jennifer to herself, knowing that his daughter has a nude boyfriend in Danube City.
Spokesman Dukov was not thrilled at all with his daughter's choice of a boyfriend, because the guy was convicted for a perfectly legitimate crime. He had gotten drunk and participated in a football-riot while studying abroad in Germany. He was videotaped participating in several acts of vandalism including helping his German friends overturn and burn some cars. On top of that, he threw several bottles at the German police and injured a bystander when a bottle missed its intended target. Germany quickly expelled him back to Upper Danubia, where he faced a government very angry at the negative publicity he had brought to the Duchy. Because his crimes appeared in the German press with some comments about "uncouth easterners", he was given a rather harsh 10-year sentence for the crimes of assault, insurrection, and "dishonoring the Duchy" once he returned home.
Dukov did not treat his daughter's boyfriend with the same warmth and trust with which he treated Sergekt. The young man's crimes had not been "crimes of honor"; quite the opposite, the he had dishonored himself and Upper Danubia with his loutish, drunken behavior. Still, Dukov felt he could not openly reject Anyia's boyfriend unless he did something specific to offend the Spokesman. Dukov himself had served a sentence and spent his life representing people like his daughter's boyfriend in court, so he had to show a minimal amount of respect to the young man kneeling at his feet. That respect was minimal, however. Dukov made it very clear to his daughter's boyfriend that he was to treat the Spokesman and his wife with the proper protocol due to public officials at all times.
Jennifer's boyfriend was a straight-forward criminal, convicted of burglarizing several warehouses and trying to sell stolen merchandise. He was serving an eight-year sentence and would not have his collar off until he was 26. The relationship became rather interesting over time, because after several weeks of going out she began disciplining him. Because Jennifer was free and her boyfriend was a criminal, the American student had a superior legal status and thus could tell him what to do. The young burglar was grateful enough to have a girlfriend, especially an attractive red-headed American, so he was willing to put up with having to submit to her.
The discipline started with an occasional sharp slap to the bottom if Jennifer's boyfriend did not move fast enough or do something the American had told him to do. After a few weeks, every time Jennifer told the young criminal to do something, the order always was accompanied with a sharp slap to the bottom. Then it became two slaps to the bottom. Always. Then, shortly before Easter, Jennifer's boyfriend accidentally bumped into her back-pack and crushed a pair of sunglasses as they were entering Dukov's house with Anyia.
The house was empty, so the teenagers were free to do what they wanted. Jennifer sat on the sofa and ordered her boyfriend to lie across her lap, right in front of Anyia. The silent, embarrassed pleading in the criminal's eyes only stiffened Jennifer's resolve.
"I told you to get over my lap! Now do it!"
Once the young man was properly positioned, Jennifer began spanking him while Anyia watched. The punishment was not nearly as painful as the switchings the young man was enduring as part of his sentence, but was infinitely more embarrassing. The slaps continued for a very long time, as the criminal's bottom changed color from light pink to deep pink.
Anyia ran upstairs and grabbed a camera. To the young man's horror she began taking pictures of the spanking. When he turned his head away from the photographer, both girls sharply admonished him to keep his face visible to the camera. Once again, the girls' photo session proved far more embarrassing then the video-tapings made of the criminal's judicial switchings. To be forced across his girlfriend's lap, with another friend taking pictures....
Finally Jennifer finished the spanking, mostly because her hand became sore and her arm was too tired to continue. The next time, I'll see if I can find a paddle or belt, Jennifer thought to herself. Still, the girls were not finished with the punishment; they wanted to do something more. Anyia came up with the idea of making the young criminal kneel in the corner, with his hands behind his head. Once he was in position, there were several more pictures. The finishing touch came when Jennifer decided to write something on her boyfriend's back. Anyia got a black magic marker and, in careful block letters, wrote in Danubian: "I stupidly broke my girlfriend's glasses and she had to punish me."
Right after that the three went back outside and got on a trolley and go downtown. Jennifer and Anyia thoroughly enjoyed the young man's utter humiliation as bystanders stared at his pink bottom and the message on his back.
The experience changed Jennifer and made her realize she actually could enjoy her time in Upper Danubia. Yes, it was true there were no raves, drugs, tattoos, nor any other "fun" things to do in Upper Danubia, but then, where else could you spank a naked boyfriend and then make him walk around in public with a pink bottom and a punishment message written on his back?
During the final months of their sentences Kim and Eliosa had very little time to daydream about what life would be like without their collars. Their recording company approached them with plans for a late summer tour through Europe, a series of live performances in several major cities throughout the EU. There were plans to have the group record some more music in Germany after July 2 and another possible movie deal. The two lead singers were forced to rehearse hard with the female vocalists from the band, night after night, as they tried out new music. They recorded song after song with the musicians, desperate to produce what they could while the group's music was still rising in popularity.
There were rumors the soundtrack for the Hollywood movie about the Roman invasion of Gaul would be nominated for several prizes, including best musical score. The haunting music from "Socrates' Mistresses" provided a perfect backdrop for a tragic story that dealt with the destruction of Gaul and its lost civilization. As the soundtracks sold, the group's other CD's sold, with the music stores struggling to keep up with demand.
During that spring music companies began approaching other Danubian musical groups, as the "Danubian sound" moved to the forefront of global popular music. The owner of the Socrates Club and the owner of the music store scrambled to prepare bands for auditions and make arrangements for recording studios. The two men eventually pooled some money and bought several warehouses close to downtown to set up as recording studios. They brought in equipment and technicians from the EU to set up a top-quality recording studio complex for Danube City. Group after group, almost all of them criminals or ex-criminals from the Socrates Club, passed through the new Danube City studio complex on their way to recording albums and receiving contracts.
The Danubian Parliament quickly had to change the law that initially had protected the Danubian music industry and kept Danubian music unique. The law that prohibited top billboard music from being played or distributed in Upper Danubia had to be overturned, or Eloisa's music would have been banned in her own country. As regrettable as removing the protection was to many of the deputies, there was no choice if the Duchy was to have any respect for its popular singer and her friends. With the passage of the new music law Upper Danubia took a major cultural step in ending some of its isolation. That step, however, was done on Danubian terms and to accommodate Danubian interests, not the interests of foreigners. Having to change the law made Danubians more confident of the country's contribution to global culture, and even more proud of the Duchy's culture and traditions.