The Courier Ch. 11bycaligula97236©
Chapter 11 -- Solidarity
Maria Elena spent the remainder of her second week in Danubia settling into her daily routine. In the mornings she gardened at the university, then she met with Carmen and some of the other norteamericanos for lunch, and later attended language class and physical fitness training. Afterwards she went home to fix dinner and clean, and finally, when Victor came home, she spent her evenings with him. She was busy from the moment she got up until the moment she fell asleep, but in her case being continuously occupied was what she needed. Her activities varied enough that each part of her day gave her something to look forward to.
In spite of her initial resistance to the thought of being a gardener, Maria Elena discovered that gardening really was not a bad job at all. She worked for people who were not particularly demanding and who left her alone once it was clear she understood what needed to be done for the day. The university grounds were attractive and peaceful, an excellent place to enjoy the warm late summer weather.
She often felt very erotic, being naked outdoors in that park-like setting. When she got on her hands and knees to pull weeds and grass out of flower beds, she thoroughly enjoyed the feel of the warm morning sun on her exposed bottom. When she spread her legs and leaned forward, the sunshine and breezes caressed her bottom-hole and vulva, a sensation she never could have experienced anywhere in Colombia. Her modesty had faded and she actually enjoyed the looks she got from men passing by the spot where she was working.
She enjoyed Carmen's company during lunch and hearing about her life in Los Angeles. Carmen was curious about Maria Elena's life in Colombia as well, but unlike many of her classmates, she had enough tact not to ask anything about the prisoner's legal situation or the circumstances that brought her to Danubia. Carmen also had enough tact never to stare at her companion's collar or uncovered body. She put her at ease and always treated her as just another classmate. There were times that Maria Elena wished she had some free time so she could hang out with Carmen, but her schedule only allowed her a few minutes around lunchtime. She hoped that after she was convicted that she might have some more time to spend with new friend.
She pushed herself hard during language class and soon surpassed many of the norteamericanos with her ability to speak and communicate in her new home. Speaking and understanding the Danubian language was vital to her future, because Kim had told her that she needed to be prepared to take another job by the end of September, one that would allow her to work indoors once the weather got cold. The law required that criminals had work in places where as many ordinary citizens as possible could see their nakedness and their public shame, so the only indoor positions suitable for criminals were customer service jobs. Already Kim was thinking ahead to what her client could do after September, but the range of options depended on how well she could speak and understand Danubian.
By the end of her second week, Maria Elena's body was beginning to show the benefits of her physical fitness training and physical labor. The runs continued to be a challenge, but each day she experienced improvement. She was eating healthy, sleeping well, and felt better than she had in years.
Once language class had ended on her second Saturday in Danubia, Maria Elena visited Spokeswoman Kimberly Lee-Dolkivna at the Central Police Station, accompanied by her translator. The official informed her client that she wanted to give her a final update on her legal status before she went to trial. To have such a discussion during the weekly hair-braiding ritual would have been inappropriate, because it involved Kim talking to Maria Elena as a superior, something that was never done when women had their hair unbraided.
The most important update was that German investigators, after interrogating El Flaco, had located a few more of Maria Elena's fellow couriers and already had rescued several of them. "For better or for worse, they'll be going home. I don't know to what, but I'd guess they'll eventually get deported back to their own countries."
Kim also explained that, under ordinary circumstances, she already would have insisted that Maria Elena call her mother to explain where she was and what had happened to her. However, she understood that in her client's case to do so might put Señora Torres in danger from Alex or someone else in the smuggling group. To that Maria Elena had no response, because in her current situation she had no desire at all that her mother know what she was doing or where she had ended up. Noting her silence, the Spokeswoman commented:
"You'll have to tell her eventually. Don't think that I will let you avoid that responsibility, because I won't. When I feel that it would pose no danger to your mother or anyone else in your family, I will pick up this phone, hand it to you, and in front of me you will tell your mother, in detail, why you are here."
Finally Kim explained what was going to happen Monday morning. Cecilia would bring her to the Spokeswoman's office at 8:00 in the morning. Upon entering the office she would kneel and be prohibited from speaking. A police officer, most likely the dog handler who had arrested her, would arrive, handcuff her, and then escort her across the plaza to the Central Courthouse for trial. Kim and Cecilia would accompany her, but she would have to make the trip across the plaza handcuffed.
"Couldn't I just go straight to the courthouse, Spokeswoman?"
"No. There's a lot of ritual with a criminal trial, and the walk across the plaza is part of that ritual. Anyhow, I wouldn't worry about the trip over. The trip back will be a lot more difficult, after you've taken your punishment, but that too is part of the ritual of trial."
Kim explained something that Cecilia already had mentioned, that during the switching it was extremely important that she try not to scream or cry for as long as possible.
"You'll find out that criminals have their own unwritten code for what was considered honorable behavior. There's a reason for that. Your honor, along with everything else in your life, has been taken away from you. It is your duty, to yourself and to those around you, to regain that honor through your actions. How you face the difficulties of your Path in Life as a convicted criminal is vital to your redemption. An important part of that redemption is to always display courage and stoicism, especially during times of pain or danger. The switching is your first chance to show the world, and yourself, that in spite of your situation, you are determined to regain your honor."
Once Cecilia translated, Kim continued:
"It's not likely you'll make it through your punishment without crying, but you need to do the best you can. You'll have to remember that cops have their own measurement of honor, and for that officer punishing you, it's as important for him to make you cry as it is for you to resist. The point is for you to do your best. That's all anyone can expect from you."
There was a final detail about criminal protocol that Kim needed to tell Maria Elena. Normally criminals shaved their pubic hair 24 hours before trial or before a scheduled punishment. The purpose of shaving was to show everyone around them that their Path in Life was to suffer as a result of their actions, and that they had accepted that as an obligation the Creator had imposed upon them. Shaving was the ultimate act of humility, because it completely exposed the criminal's genitalia to the rest of the world; the acknowledgement and acceptance of a life in which modesty and hiding oneself from public scrutiny was not allowed.
Maria Elena was grateful for the explanation. She quietly responded that she understood and that she would be properly shaved when she presented herself for trial.
Upon finishing Prisoner # 101025's final pre-trial interview, the three women took a trolley to Victor Dukov's house for the weekly ritual of hair washing and re-braiding. Maria Elena reflected that the majority of the women she was with had been convicted criminals, the only exceptions being Cecilia Sanchez and Cynthia Lee. They had endured the switching table and faced the public shame of being collared with courage and dignity. Maria Elena understood that her Path in Life was to live up to the high standard that her companions had set for her. She needed the women around her to accept her and view her as an honorable person; the only way she could achieve that goal was to understand and always fulfill the demands that criminal protocol placed upon her.
After two weeks in her new home, her frame of mind was one of acceptance. As much as she dreaded the horrific experience that awaited her on Monday, she understood that it was the inevitable result of her own misguided decisions. The only choice she had left was to live as honorably as possible within her circumstances. She was determined that she would do her best, and not only because she was worried about what other criminals or cops might think. As important as what opinion others might have of her, what mattered most was Victor. What her lover thought of her mattered very much.
That night Cecilia went with her fiancé to the Socrates Club, but Maria Elena did not accompany them. She wanted to spend her evening with Victor. She would make love to him as usual, but before they made love, she had an important favor to ask of him. While he prayed, Maria Elena rummaged through the bathroom of the master bedroom and took out his shaving supplies. She put a fresh blade in his razor, filled a bowl with hot water, and put a towel over a small piano bench that she felt would support her weight. Once she had everything set up, she returned downstairs and knelt with his tea.
When Victor and Maria Elena went upstairs, she handed him the razor and pointed at her own pelvis. She still was not able to express what she was feeling with Danubian vocabulary, but with her expression she made it clear that it was important that he be the one who shaved her. He took her hand and nodded.
Maria Elena lay on her back on the bench and spread her legs. Victor dipped a washcloth in the hot water and soaked the area around his lover's vulva, before covering her with shaving cream. Slowly and gently he scrapped off the black hair from her body, exposing more and more of her vulnerable womanhood. He was careful to get all of it, making sure there was no stubble left around the creases of her labia. Finally he instructed her to lift up her legs so he could shave around her bottom-hole as well. When he finished, he dropped the razor in the water, then took the wet washrag and cleaned off the remaining shaving cream. He gently dried her and ran his fingers over her exposed skin to make sure she was completely devoid of hair.
Victor gave Maria Elena his hand and helped her stand up. He led her to the large mirror he had in his room so she could see herself. As a child she had never looked at her body in the mirror, so seeing herself stripped of her hair was totally new to her. How strange...to be so completely exposed.
Maria Elena took Victor's hand and placed it over her stripped vulva. As she felt his fingers touching her bare skin she commented:
"Ya kriminálika...ya kriminálika..."
Victor gently continued exploring her smooth skin. His only reply was:
Yes, she was indeed a criminal, but he fully understood what she really was trying to tell him. She had accepted who she was and what she had become. He had helped her make that journey in her mind, which was why it was so important that he should shave her. She lacked the vocabulary to express her feelings, but still she was able to convey to him what was going on in her mind. He understood perfectly, and only needed a single word to respond.
The following day was Sunday, the traditional day for family dinners and get-togethers. Victor had invited his sons and their families to have dinner at his house. The Prime Minister and his family would not be present, because they had accepted an invitation from the Grand Duke to have a state dinner at the Royal Residence. Cecilia commented:
"Be real glad we don't have to go to that. Having dinner with the Royals might sound exciting, but once you've done it a couple of times, it's something you try to get out of if you can. I don't mind the Grand Duke; he's actually fun to talk to. But the Grand Duchess is someone you want to avoid like the plague. That's especially true in the Royal Residence. You do not want to be around Anyia when she's at home bossing everyone around. I can tell you something else, I kinda feel sorry for her parents. They're both very decent people, and to have that person as their daughter must totally suck."
"She's really that bad?"
"Well, you saw her last week. What'd you think of her?"
"I guess you're right. I didn't like her. She sort of scared me, to be honest."
Cecilia took charge of cooking dinner while Maria Elena helped set up and cleaned pans that no longer were needed. Finally Victor's sons and their families showed up, along with Jason Schmidt. Cecilia immediately ordered her fiancé into the kitchen to help serve, while she changed into a formal dress. She returned to the dining room and took her place at the table next to Victor and her nephew.
Because they wore collars, it was the duty of Jason and Maria Elena to serve the rest of the household. They would be allowed to sit at the table and eat, but if anyone needed anything, they were expected to get up and attend to that request. However, the very fact Jason and Maria Elena were allowed to have plates at the table at all indicated that Victor held them in high esteem, in spite of their collars. Ordinarily it was customary that a collared member of the household should kneel during a dinner while waiting to attend to the others' needs and would be allowed to eat only leftovers once the meal had ended.
The dinner distracted Maria Elena from her impending trial, but she noticed the guests glancing at her shaved vulva. She did not really feel any shame, because she simply was trying to comply with protocol, through a gesture of humility that announced her upcoming ordeal in the courtroom.
Finally dinner ended, with Maria Elena and Jason tasked to clean up. Cecilia accompanied them to "help out", but the prisoner fully understood that in reality she was watching over her fiancé. She was bothered by the fact the Dominican still did not trust her, but she knew that with Jason there was no way Cecilia was about to take any chances. She watched over him constantly, especially if he was in the presence of other women. She only felt confident allowing him out of her sight if he was performing services for the Danubian Church. Later Maria Elena would realize that Cecilia's behavior was not so much a lack in confidence in herself or distrust of Jason, but instead a result of her controlling personality and desire not to have anything in her life out of order.
Much later, when Victor's sons left the house along with Cecilia's fiancé, Maria Elena lay on his bed so that he could enjoy her body one final time before her trial. For a very long time the prisoner lay on her stomach as her lover gently caressed and massaged her bottom. She enjoyed his tender touches on her soft skin, knowing that within just a few hours her entire backside would be brutally marked up, covered with welts and blood blisters. She would spend the next day injured, dispirited, and exhausted. It would take her days to recover, both psychologically and physically. She knew that, as she unsuccessfully tried to ignore the fear building up within her soul.
She was unable to relax. Finally she sat up. Victor sat up as well. She took his hand and touched his fingers to her collar.
With that he put his hand over her heart, which was beating rapidly. For a long time he simply held her as he tried to comfort her.
A few hours later Cecilia and Maria Elena walked to the university and boarded a crowded commuter trolley heading downtown. The Dominican explained the arrangement that Victor had made with the Spokeswoman; that he was to go to her office during the trial and wait for her to be brought up. She explained that he would not witness her trial or punishment because of Danubian protocol. It was considered inappropriate for family members or lovers to be present during a judicial punishment. There was a concern that family members might attempt to disrupt the proceedings. More important was the tradition that even a dishonored criminal should not have to endure the humiliation of having family members witness a switching.
Normally family members and lovers were prohibited from being present at the recovery table as well, but Cecilia explained that in Maria Elena's case Kim had decided to make an exception. When she was brought back from the courthouse, Victor would be in the office waiting for her.
When the two women arrived at the entrance of the Central Police Station, they saw a small group of US exchange students, led by Carmen, waiting for them. Maria Elena's friend explained that they wanted to "bear witness" to the inhumane treatment that she was about to endure. They had come fully prepared with protest banners and an inflammatory statement they had written up in both Danubian and English that they planned to read to reporters. It was apparent they wanted to stage a public demonstration and expected to be arrested.
Cecilia sighed, because the spectacle that Carmen was planning was absolutely the last thing that either Maria Elena or the exchange program needed. Protesting with banners and shouting slogans was not the Danubian way of handling situations like the one facing Maria Elena. Yes, the Americans would undoubtedly get arrested if they tried to disrupt the trial of Prisoner # 101025, but it was unlikely anything would happen other than the cancellation of their visas and expulsion from the exchange program. Cecilia knew that she would have to try to reason with her students, but she also knew that they were still unfamiliar with Danubian culture and would not understand why protesting Maria Elena's trial would not do any good. Desperate for some advice, she dialed Spokeswoman Lee-Dolkivna on her cell phone.
"Kim, you need to get down here. We've got a problem on our hands." As soon as Cecilia started explaining what was going on, the Spokeswoman immediately hung up and rushed down three flights of stairs to the main entrance of the police station. Cecilia expected Kim to tell the students that they needed to disperse immediately and that the idea of protesting a trial was idiotic. She also expected that the students would argue and there would be an unpleasant scene. However what the Spokeswoman did totally surprised her. Kim called the students to attention with a very loud whistle. She explained who she was and gave a brief summary of what was about to happen to their Colombian classmate. Then she added:
"If you don't like what's happening to Prisoner # 101025, I can understand, because there're some details about her case that I don't like either. Don't think I don't understand your objections to what's going on, because I understand perfectly. I'd also imagine that you think I'm going to tell you not to protest. I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to tell you not to protest, because in this case protesting is perfectly legitimate. The problem I have is with the way you're planning to go about it. To have a bunch of foreigners shouting slogans is not going to do your classmate any good, people are not going to understand what you're trying to accomplish, and all it's going to do to you is make you look like crazy foreigners. If you're really serious about showing solidarity with Maria Elena, you need to protest the way Danubians would protest. If you protest in a way that people here would understand, you'll have a lot more impact, not mess up your own futures, and make people understand that as Americans, you're willing to respect the culture here. There's a way to do all that."