The Freshman Ch. 22bycaligula97236©
Chapter 22 - Finals week
The Danubians departed Chicago late Saturday afternoon for Washington. There was a brief formal ceremony at the university marking their departure, followed by an unceremonious trip to the O'Hare Airport and a quick flight to Washington. In the US capitol there would be no official welcome from any Administration officials. The Danubians would go straight to their country's embassy for an official dinner, then spend one day touring the US capitol before Dukov gave his presentation on Monday. Immediately after the National Press Club appearance, there would be an overnight stop in Ottawa before the flight to Europe.
Cecilia was very sorry to see the Danubians leave Chicago. Although she had only talked three times to the Prime Minister, she felt a real affinity towards him. She enjoyed watching him as he spoke and interacted with his US hosts. She especially liked the way he interacted with his fellow government officials, people who until very recently had not been his subordinates, but rather his co-workers. Apart from the mandatory exchanges of salutes, there was absolutely nothing in Dukov's behavior indicating that he saw himself as superior in any way to the other members of his delegation. In fact, when speaking to Alexi Havlakt, Cecilia could tell that Dukov addressed him with a great deal of respect and that he relied on the older man's insight to supplement his own.
The members of the Foundation and even some reporters marveled at the modest demeanor of the Danubians throughout their visit. The only luxury they afforded themselves during the entire trip was a day of sightseeing in Washington DC, and even that was simply because it was a Sunday and there really was very little else for them to do. As for where they stayed, that would be in the Danubian Embassy. The Prime Minister had no desire to spend money on hotels if it was not necessary.
Cecilia wrote at length to Kimberly Lee about Dukov's visit and the impression the delegation had left on her. She asked some questions about Alexi Havlakt and asked Kim to fill her in about the historical site in Sumy Ris. She also thanked Kim for the CD's for Jason's grandmother, mentioning that she already had sent them by overnight mail to their final recipient earlier in the week.
The online relationship between Kimberly and Cecilia took off after Dukov's visit. Cecilia wrote extensively about her current semester at the university and her studies to major in economics. Kim responded by talking about her own studies and the overall lifestyle of the members of "Socrates' Mistresses". The band still was producing music, but now that they no longer could sing outside of Upper Danubia, its members had decided to pursue other careers and keep singing as a hobby.
"I think that's actually helped us a lot, because last year, when we were touring, I was seeing the beginnings of tension between our members over money and musical direction. I know that when our contract got canceled, Dima (my singing partner's husband) was happy about it. He didn't want the money. What he wanted was for us to sing what we felt, and he thought that the contract and the touring and the pressure were starting to get in the way. It wasn't fun any more. Now we're back where we started, at the Socrates Club. I think it's a lot more enjoyable for all of us, because singing is our chance to get together and escape from our other responsibilities in life."
Cecilia was aware that whenever "Socrates' Mistresses" sang, they always performed in the nude. The band's website had several uncensored pictures from recent concerts which clearly showed the five singers wearing nothing but their criminal collars while on stage. Performing as criminals had become the group's trademark: it was where they had started and what they had returned to. That decision by the popular group had influenced how Danubians looked upon criminals in general and how people currently serving sentences saw themselves.
The music originating from the Socrates Club had become more influential than ever and a source of real national pride among the Danubians. The Danubian music scene was becoming popular throughout Europe and it seemed that Danube City was well on its way to being an important destination for tourists interested in buying CD's and attending concerts. Hotels and concert halls around Danube City were full to capacity, so much so that some of the concerts were moving to provincial towns. "Socrates' Mistresses" could count on any concert they gave to be sold out, so, even with their international contract canceled, they could not complain about the income they received from their singing.
The online conversation shifted to Upper Danubia's criminal justice system and Kim's goal to become a Spokeswoman for the Criminal specializing in representing convicted foreigners. Kim was able to answer Cecilia's questions about the Danubian system and the country's unique way of punishing criminals. She wrote at length about her ambition to follow in Vladim Dukov's footsteps and pursue a career in the Danubian courts. She already was in her third year of studies at the Law School at the National University in Danube City and recently had been certified as a Court Apprentice in Full Standing.
Kimberly Lee-Dolkivna explained that in the Danubian judicial system the Spokesperson for the Criminal took the place of both the public defense attorney and the parole officer in the US system. The Spokesperson was an extremely important position, because the moment a suspect was placed under arrest, he or she was placed under the legal custody of a Spokesperson, who had duties and rights similar to those of a parent of an underage child. The Spokesperson presented the suspect in trial and explained the case from the suspect's point of view. If the suspect was convicted and collared, it was the Spokesperson's responsibility to ensure the client was gainfully employed, living a lifestyle that would ensure no further criminal activity, and properly adjusting to the harsh conditions and demands placed on the convicted criminal's daily life and activities. The Spokesperson had final say over anything a client did or decided.
In Kim's case, although she was only an Apprentice, she already held legal custody over six convicted criminals, all of them foreigners arrested in Danube City for drug violations. It surprised Cecilia to learn that Kim was rather strict with her six clients, very insistent they show her proper protocol at all times. As Kim explained: "I'm not their friend. I am their custodian and their mentor. It is my duty to watch over them, and it is their duty to obey me. If they question what I'm telling them to do, I always ask them to look at me and consider whether anything I want them to do is going to harm them in any way or help me at their expense. Of course they never have an answer to that question and so they end up obeying me."
Kim wrote at length about her very first client, a young American called Tiffany Walker who was serving a 35-year sentence for perjury. Tiffany had been a close friend of Kim in high school and was traveling with her and another friend when the three were arrested in Danube City. By lying to the arraignment committee, she and the other girl narrowly escaped being charged with marijuana possession by the Danubian government. They left Danube City, abandoning Kim to her fate. The following week the two girls' drug use caught up with them when they got sick with hepatitis while sharing a needle in a Prague nightclub. Tiffany survived, but returned to the US and drifted for nearly two years. She spent her time experimenting with various drugs and working as a prostitute, her self-esteem totally shattered by her disastrous trip to Europe. Finally she ended up back in her hometown as a stripper supporting the habit of a methamphetamine addict.
The strip club was where Kim found her former friend when she returned to the US for a brief visit after completing her sentence. Tiffany had started using methamphetamine when Kim confronted her, but fortunately her addiction had not yet severely damaged her health. Although she was well-aware of what was happening and that she was ruining her prospects for having a decent life, Kim's former friend lacked the will to extricate herself from her situation. The responsibility of saving Tiffany fell to Kim. It was Kim who convinced her to return to Upper Danubia, face sentencing, and live as a convicted criminal under her supervision. Leaving the US with Kim would be Tiffany's final chance to break away from her addictions, the final opportunity to save herself that fortunately she took advantage of. Kim's new client spent a month in a Danubian rehab program, and then was convicted of perjury and sentenced by a Danubian court.
Kim had a comment: "I think Tiffany's story shows just how bad meth really is. We both knew that no matter how bad her life would be serving as a convicted criminal in Danube City, it was the only realistic alternative she had to slowly killing herself on meth. And she's still addicted. She hasn't used anything for a year and a half, but she still gets those cravings. It's a very rough life, the one she has now, but she did manage to get away from the old one. Just having gotten away, and not having the choice available to kill herself anymore has made her very happy, in spite of all the crap she has to put up with as a criminal."
What made Tiffany's existence in Danube City truly unusual was her personal life. In spite of being a convicted criminal, she was the fiancé of Vladik Dukov, who was a police officer and the Prime Minister's son. Eventually Tiffany and Vladik would get married, but getting married, even to the Prime Minister's son, would not affect her legal status as a criminal. Until she completed her sentence, Kim would remain her custodian. Tiffany would have to answer to her Spokeswoman, not her husband.
There was a further detail about Tiffany's situation that Cecilia found totally astounding. In Upper Danubia, the arresting police officer was responsible for inflicting any corporal punishments assigned by the trial judge as part of the criminal's sentence. In Tiffany's case, the law meant that, because he had present during her initial arrest, Vladik Dukov was assigned to administer the yearly switchings. At the conclusion of her trial it was Vladik who switched Tiffany in court, and he switched her a second time the past summer.
When Tiffany became engaged, Kim offered to have another police officer assigned to punish her. However, Tiffany insisted that no, she did not want anyone else to switch her other than Vladik. She felt that the yearly switchings were an important part of her redemption and it was important that the person punishing her was the man who loved her. Vladik was quite severe with the switch and showed no mercy, not even to his own fiancé. Still, Tiffany insisted that he remain in charge of her punishments.
Kim concluded: "I suppose the situation between Tiffany and Vladik, and her whole attitude, must sound totally weird to you. You'd have to know what she's gone through in life to understand why she is the way she is. I'd guess none of this makes much sense to you, but here in Danube City the way people think is different from the way people think in the US. If you've ever seen anyone on drugs, you'll know that changes the way they think also."
Cecilia knew, from her own experiences, that Kim's last sentence was very true.
The concept of legal custody fascinated Cecilia, partly because of her long-term plans for Jason. She knew that in Upper Danubia, custody was a legally binding arrangement, fully sanctioned and codified under Danubian law. Cecilia asked Kim if custody arrangements ever happened between people other than Spokespersons and criminals. Her heart jumped when she received Kim's answer; most definitely there were many instances of non-judicial custody in Upper Danubia. The two most common were public penance and cases of identified substance abusers. A person performing public penance placed himself under the custody of the Danubian Church, for a period of time agreed upon by the sinner and a Temple Priest. The other most common instance of non-judicial custody involved people who were identified substance abusers, but had not been convicted of any crime. The philosophy of the Danubian government was that substance abusers had forfeited the right to control their own lives, but could not be subjected to the judicial system if they had not broken any laws. The solution was to award formal custody to a family member, most often a spouse. Kim concluded: "I'd guess that's why we don't have too many drunks in the Duchy. How many men are going to want to take orders from a pissed-off wife who's got legal authority from the government?"
Kim's final comment got Cecilia thinking...hmm...a husband under the custody of his wife...legal custody. She wrote back: "I was curious about something. Does this whole custody thing apply only to substance abusers? Are there ever any cases that a husband is placed under the custody of his wife, because, maybe they both agreed that what's best for their marriage?"
Kim answered: "Sometimes it happens that way. Most often it's for adultery or some other thing that one partner did to offend the other. Those cases are handled by the Church, and they fall under the rules for public penance. That means the person who is surrendering custody has to give up their clothing, wear a collar, and kneel before their partner. I have a classmate at the university who's doing that right now. She's engaged, but a year ago she went to Germany for a semester and had an affair while she was there. She came back feeling all guilty about it, so she confessed to her fiancé. I guess he was willing to forgive her, but she wouldn't forgive herself. Finally she went to the Temple and asked a Priest to collar her and write up a certificate of custody for her fiancé. She took the certificate and gave it to him, and insists on kneeling whenever she speaks to him. What's weird was that it was something she insisted on doing, not because it was anything he really wanted. And she's gotten used to living like that. She's been wearing her collar for over a year. They're getting married next month, but she says she wants to keep wearing her collar even after the wedding. I wouldn't be surprised if she stays that way the rest of her life."
Cecilia's heart pounded and she could feel the wetness building between her legs. Jason...that was what she fantasized about doing with Jason. She wanted complete dominance over him and make him kneel whenever he spoke to her. Apparently if she were Danubian she could do it, become his legal custodian and control every detail of his life. To have him wear a collar, follow her around naked in public, drop to his knees whenever he spoke to her, and have him be legally required to do anything she commanded him to do...that was exactly what she wanted for her relationship with her boyfriend. If only she had some means of getting herself and Jason to Danube City...
The semester was drawing to a close. The professors gave their final lectures, there was a two-day break for students to catch up on studying for their finals, and then the tests. Burnside had Cecilia proctor the examinations for the freshman classes, including the exam for the Theory class that had to be re-written because it had been compromised. Cecilia's heart pounded and her face turned red when the professor handed her a stack of re-written tests to pass out. However, true to her word, Burnside made no comment whatsoever about the unexpected extra work Cecilia had forced her to do. The matter between the two women had been settled during the Halloween party. The only reminder she ever would have of the incident would be a copy of the department memo ending her academic probation. The memo would be issued on the day final grades for the semester were posted.
Cecilia quickly found out that Burnside was perfectly willing to bend the rules of her department when she felt it was necessary. In spite of being on probation and officially prohibited from assisting with grading tests, Burnside tasked Cecilia with helping Mark Gertz grade 50 essay exams. She ordered Cecilia to make photocopies of the essays, and then write corrections and comments on the copies to give to the TA. Cecilia felt the exercise was a horrible waste of effort and paper, but Burnside wanted to prepare her scholarship student to work as an assistant during her junior year. If Cecilia had any problems with her ability to grade other students' work, Burnside wanted to catch them early and use the following semester to correct them. Precisely because Burnside selected and prepared her assistants in advance, her grading always went smoothly.
In addition to her own exams for her sophomore classes, Cecilia had to worry about the success of her floor in general and Jason and his friends in particular. She grilled them ruthlessly and demanded they spend as much time as possible helping other floor residents. As a result, Jason and his friends went into their exams confident that they knew the material, and were well-practiced in explaining it to others. Jason finished his first semester with four "A's" and two "B's" for final grades. Mike did even better, getting all "A's", including a very rare "A" from Ruth Burnside. Ken and Lisa each got three "A's" and three "B's". The four students thus had begun their college careers with solid academic averages.
Jason, for the first time in his life, felt that he could face his father with confidence when he went home for Christmas. Whatever criticism Mr. Schmidt might have had in store would be muted by his son's academic success. Obviously his grandmother, who had argued with his father to let him study out of state, would be vindicated by Jason's performance. Perhaps there would be no warmth between him and his parents, but Jason could look forward to a peaceful Christmas break without having to listen to constant digs about what a failure he was.
In spite of their academic success over the fall semester, Christmas would be a difficult time for young couple, because they would be forced to spend three weeks separated from each other. Jason could not stay in the dorm because the university required all freshmen to vacate over Christmas break. Only RA's could stay in their rooms, which was fortunate because Cecilia had nowhere else to go. The issue of her traveling to Wisconsin never came up, given that no one; not her, not Jason, not Jason's parents; had any desire to endure a repeat of the Thanksgiving disaster.
As their three-week separation loomed, Cecilia and Jason felt very uneasy, almost scared. They had become so emotionally dependent on each other that each felt lost if the other was not nearby. Cecilia was even more affected by the pending separation than was Jason. The thought of being apart from him tormented her because she needed him. She was confused over her distress and became very angry with herself. She had promised herself that after Vicente, she never again would become psychologically dependent on a boyfriend. Because she needed Jason so badly, she had broken that promise. She asked herself, if she and Jason had agreed that she was the one in charge of their relationship, why should she be so upset at the thought of being separated from him? Shouldn't it be the other way around?
The only answer she could find was that she felt safe when she was with him. He loved her with all of his being, and in her own way, she loved him in return. For the only time in her life she trusted a man enough to partially be able open up to him. The reason she was able to open up to him at all was because, as she said it, he didn't give her any shit. There was a second part of that reason: while he "didn't give her no shit", he certainly took it from her. He calmly put up with her demands, her controlling behavior, her foul temper, and her mood swings with patience and cheerfulness. He loved her enough to consistently withstand her quirks, day after day. She fully knew that she was as hard to get along with as a woman possibly could be, and yet he still loved her.