Pete came into my room and handed me the laptop. He sat down, which was unusual.
"They made the arrest. I still don't believe it."
"Believe it, Pete. All the evidence is there. It's ironclad. Your wife certainly thought so. And so did the Grand Jury. You know they returned about a dozen RICO counts along with a bunch of other charges."
"I still don't believe it."
"I don't know what else to say. I couldn't have handed them anything better even if I'd had it all videotaped."
"So that's why you were never worried about your friends in Cincinnati."
"Exactly. And once things went down here with Family Secrets, the writing was on the wall for Chicago. I made the call that led to where we are right now. Well, I called Melanie and she made the actual call."
"You played a very dangerous game, Steve. I have to say the revelation as to when you got involved floored me."
"All because I wanted that rat bastard rapist taken out."
"Well, he got his in the end."
"Yeah, and it was fitting. And well deserved. My only regret is that it took so long."
"On that we agree. Your family is coming by today. I hear that Ashley's getting ready to leave in a few weeks."
"Yes. She'll be in Östersund. She's in for a hell of a winter, that's for sure! Birgit stayed in Göteborg when she was there a few years ago."
"My wife thinks that they'll kick you loose by the end of next week. You won't need me to watch over you."
"It's good, Pete. My wife and I talked about just getting out of here. I have a good lead on a job and I think we'll end up moving. Not because I'm afraid, but because we all really need the change."
"We'll miss you. But this isn't like 1979. We've got e-mail and cell phones and the Internet."
"That last summer, you really grew up, Steve. The transformation was amazing. We all noticed. And we know who is responsible for it. She's an amazing lady, isn't she?"
"Yes, that she is."
Pete got up from the chair.
"Nope. I'm good, Marshal Carston," I said with a grin. "Just send my family up when they arrive."
He nodded and shut the door behind him. It was time to continue writing.
'«If you end up with a boring, miserable life because you listened to your mom, your dad, your teacher, your priest, or some guy on television telling you how to do your shit, then you deserve it.»' -Frank Zappa
As I merged my year-old Trans Am into traffic on I-275 and left Milford behind, I reflected on everything that had happened since we'd moved to Milford from Anderson Township. I'd met Jennie McGrath - now Jennie Sanders - and because of her, Birgit had taken a chance on me. From there, an amazing sequence of events had led to me driving a black 1980 Trans Am towards Chicago with my girlfriend and my best friend sitting in the back seat and my girlfriend's mom in the passenger seat. The three of them were talking, which let me focus on my own thoughts.
My girlfriend, Kara, had been the one who had helped me to finally get my act together. If it hadn't been for her, I probably - no, not probably - would have been making this trip alone, with only the prospect of loneliness and depression ahead, leaving behind shattered relationships. Instead, I was embarking on a new phase of my life with good friends, a wonderful girlfriend, and a future full of possibilities. I'd come a long way since sixth grade, but I knew I had a long way to go.
Of course, the best friend, Bethany, had a lot to do with the changes as well. She depended on me, perhaps too much at times, but there was a reason for that. She had been raped at age thirteen and I had helped her recover from that by first being her friend and later being her lover. We were still lovers, something my girlfriend tolerated but didn't like.
And the reason for that was a very conflicted young woman named Jennifer, who at one point I had been convinced would be my life partner, but no more. She was in Seattle, though she'd soon be heading to Stanford very soon. Until two months ago, I had expected this drive to lead me to an apartment that she and I would share as we attended college together. Unfortunately, our relationship had been destroyed partly by lies and deception, but mostly by the fact that we had been both very immature and had been carrying tremendous emotional baggage for two fifteen year olds when our journey together had started.
She'd helped me recover from the death of the love of my life, and, in the end, lost me because of that same girl - Birgit Andersson. Although Birgit was gone, her little sister had captivated me when I had been in Sweden as a High School Junior and I had failed Jennifer by sending mixed signals about what I wanted. In the end, those mixed signals had led directly to a falling out. Jennifer and I had reconciled in the last few weeks, but only as friends.
Instead of living with Jennifer, I'd be sharing a two-bedroom apartment with my friend Elyse. Without Jennie McGrath, the woman who had shown me the secrets of the world, I'd have never met Elyse. I'd given Jennie away at her wedding to Kent Sanders when I was sixteen, causing no end of trouble with my mom. I'd met Elyse at the wedding; we had spent the night together, but then later became just very good friends. She had offered to share a place with me if anything happened between Jennifer and me, which was unfortunately the case.
The thought of my mom interrupted my otherwise happy reminiscing. My mom had been a thorn in my side for years, constantly trying to control every aspect of my life and constantly interfering in my relationships. If there was a single reason for me leaving Milford, she was it. I doubted there was any way to reconcile with her given her attitude, and to be honest, I didn't want to. Her hypocritical puritanism grated on me and disgusted my friends. She had, in the end, taken to referring to any girl I ever talked to as a slut, not merely to their faces but even to their parents. I saw little chance of her ever changing.
Somewhere, a short distance ahead of my car and my three female passengers was my Dad, driving a station wagon and U-Haul trailer filled with my worldly possessions, all of which paled compared to one of the passengers in that car - my little sister Stephanie. Stephanie, the girl I'd called Squirt from the time she was seven until yesterday, when she had decided that that nickname, and all that it represented, ought to be retired, was very, very special. With her in the car was her boyfriend, Ed, who had to be the happiest Freshman in Milford. Ed was Bethany's little brother and a great kid. Stephanie had chosen well.
Dad had started out backing my mom, though as time went on, he had given me more freedom and support, culminating with allowing me to go to Sweden as an exchange student. That year was amazing and showed me that I could manage my own life reasonably well, even if I still had some major failings. When I returned, Dad had been almost completely on my side, and had helped me at every opportunity. I didn't envy him dealing with my mom, but he somehow managed to keep his relationship with her intact while preventing her from wrecking my life.
My sister, well, there was no girl in the world as special to me as Stephanie. Nobody could, or would, ever take her place in my heart. We'd been through so much together, including things society said no brother and sister should ever do. She'd been there for me, through thick and thin, supporting me and loving me. Our relationship had changed in March in a dramatic way and then changed again, in an equally dramatic way, just a few days before I left home for good. Nothing could ever truly separate me from her in this life, though my mom tried her damnedest to drive a wedge between us.
As we passed the Tri County Mall, I remembered eating at TGI Friday's and having ice cream at Farrell's. A bit further on we passed the Showcase Cinemas where I'd seen quite a few movies. Twenty minutes later, we passed the exit I'd normally take to visit Don Joseph at his home in Colerain Township.
Don Joseph Grossi was my friend Larry's grandfather. His granddaughter, Joyce, was a long-time friend and lover. She had always been one of my harshest critics but also one of my closest friends. She constantly reminded me that, in the end, she'd be the last girl standing and would walk down the aisle to me.
She had one important thing going for her, and that was that I worked for her grandfather, both on above - and below - board things. It had all started innocently with a job at Andreas' Deli in Milford which Don Joseph owned. It became far from innocent after Bethany had told me the story of her rape, and the resulting pregnancy and abortion, I wanted her rapist dead. I'd asked my friend Pete, who'd been at the party where that happened, who had been with Bethany. He'd told me, and when I confirmed it, I asked the Don for a favor. He refused what I really wanted, but arranged for Josh Benton, the rapist, to be beaten severely. From that point on, I had owed the Don.
Most of what I did consisted of writing computer programs and running errands. The computer programs were for both the legal and illegal sides of the Don's businesses. The legal side had let me develop, with my friend Beth and our new associate Krista, computer software used by a dozen veterinary offices in the Cincinnati area. The income from that, plus the computer dating service we ran for area High Schools, and the extra income from the work on the 'dark side', had let me buy the car and cover my college tuition. In Chicago, I'd be doing things for the Don's associates.
Ed, my little sister's boyfriend, had taken my old job at the deli, mainly to get access to an apartment that the Don had let me use for three years. That apartment had allowed me to spend time with my many, many female friends without having to use the back seat of a car or risk getting caught by either set of parents. Of course, Ed was only going to use it with my little sister, unlike me who'd had most of my forty-plus girls in there at one time or another.
One of those girls, Kathy, was going to be my more-or-less steady girlfriend in Chicago. We'd had serious crushes on each other since seventh grade, but neither of us acted on them when it would have mattered. By the time we had gotten together, after a couple of false starts, it was clear that we'd never be more than close friends, though we very much enjoyed an occasional physical relationship. Kara didn't particularly like the setup, but given my past and given the progress I'd made, she was, more or less, giving me permission to date Kathy until next year, when Kara would come to Chicago to go to school, and, if things went as planned, move in with me.
Things with Kara weren't simple, which was why her mom was in the car with us. Kara had admitted to her dad that we had been intimate and he put her under what could only be called 'house arrest'. That's what happens when an evangelical Christian girl gives her virginity to a guy before marriage and her dad finds out. Only through the intercession of her mom was I even allowed to see Kara, which meant Kara and I owed her mom quite a bit.
As I crossed the border into Indiana on I-74, I caught up with my dad. I could easily have driven faster, but I had no desire to get a speeding ticket. I fell in behind him and matched his pace.
"Steve?" Kara said, sounding exasperated.
"Sorry, Honey, what?"
"I called your name three times! You were really lost in thought!"
"Sorry," I replied, "I was just thinking about everything that has happened in the past six years or so. In fact, I was just thinking about you."
"Really?" she said brightly.
"Yes, really. Do you need anything?"
"Do you know how long until the Rest Area?"
"About forty minutes at this point, I guess. Why?"
"Well, I'll need it!" she giggled.
"You OK until then? I can always get off at one of these exits."
"No, I'll be fine."
The girls resumed talking and I put a tape into the tape deck. The first notes of ABBA's Super Trouper wafted from the speakers and I reminisced about the amazing young woman who had been taken from me at such a young age.
Birgit Andersson had been a Swedish exchange student in Milford, and had been my first true love. We'd been friends for most of the year and then, just before she went home, she'd taken the chance to show me that she loved me. I knew I'd found my soulmate. Fate disagreed and ripped her from me a year later when she drowned in a boating accident. It had taken a long time to come to terms with her death, including several tearful visits to her grave in Stockholm.
The next song was The Winner Takes it All and the lyrics drove home exactly what I felt about fate.
The gods may throw a dice, their minds as cold as ice; And someone way down here loses someone dear
The gods had indeed thrown the dice and I had lost Birgit. She'd always be with me in spirit and I always felt her love, but I had to move on. Who I'd move on with was, in one sense, a bit up in the air - it could be Birgit's little sister Karin, who'd recently visited me. It could be Joyce or Bethany. Most likely, I thought, it would be Kara, though I knew how fickle Fate was, and it could well be someone I hadn't met yet, or someone who I didn't think it would be, such as Jennifer. Only time would tell.
The next song on the album was On and On and On and once again, one of the verses hit home strongly, but this time, making me think of Kara.
Who am I and who are you and who are we?
That was, indeed the question that I needed to answer by the end of June of next year. I had ten months to figure it out, because the course was set that sometime around the first of July of next year, I'd ask Kara to marry me. She wanted it. I wanted it. I just wasn't sure I was doing the right thing. I had once told my sister that we could not let fear control us, and the fear and trepidation I had would not be enough to stop me from asking Kara to be my wife. Of course, that fickle bitch, Fate, certainly could intervene, and I expected her to do so with a vengeance, and I'd fight her like hell if that happened.
We came to the Rest Area and I followed my dad into the exit lane and we parked. Everyone got out to use the facilities. When I finished, I walked back to my car and leaned against the hood, waiting for the girls to return. Kara came out first and walked right up to me. I took her in my arms and held her. I knew she was going to miss me and I would certainly miss her.
I saw her mom come out and walk over to talk to my dad. A minute later she came over to Kara and me.
"Steve, I talked to your dad. I'm going to ride in the station wagon the rest of the way. I want you kids to be able to talk."
"Really? Thanks, Mom!" Kara exclaimed gleefully, still resting in my arms.
"Thanks Mrs. Blanchard," I added, equally as happy as my girlfriend. "I really appreciate it."
She walked over to the station wagon and got into the passenger seat. My sister looked over at me and smiled and blew me a kiss. I winked and pretended to catch it in my hand and press it to my cheek. She and Ed got back into the car and when Bethany came out, we got into my car.
"Wait!" she said. "Do you two want me to ride with your dad so you can be alone?"
"No! Stay with us, Bethany!" Kara replied.
Once again, I followed my dad and kept pace with him. Our next stop would be in Lafayette, where we'd fill the cars with gas. We were making good time and there was no traffic to speak of. I now had my girlfriend sitting to my right, rather than her mother, which made me happy.
"That was sweet of your mom, Kara," Bethany said after a few minutes.
"It was! But we can never tell my dad. He'd have kittens!"
"How is he going to react next July?"
"He'll be happy about the engagement. He'll have a heart attack when I tell him I'm moving in with Steve."
"I'm curious, Bethany," Kara said. "Why aren't you upset about Steve getting engaged? I thought you would be?"
"I love Steve, more than I can ever express. And that means I want him to be happy and to be with the person who he thinks is best for him. I've seen what you've managed to do with him, Kara. It's nothing short of a miracle. I think Joyce and I are in exactly the same place we were all along - something had to happen with Jennifer if either of us were to have a chance, now, and I am NOT hoping for this, something would have to happen with you."
"You're conceding?" Kara said with a smile that said she wasn't being mean.
"For the moment, Miss Holy-Roller!" Bethany giggled. "But I promise I will not do anything to hurt you nor will I interfere. And if he does put that ring on your finger, that changes things between him and me."
"Between him and everyone. And he knows it!" Kara said firmly. "But, for the next year, I have to accept you, Joyce, and Kathy. For his own good. Which means for my own good. I don't like it, but I understand why it has to happen."
"Joyce told me that you were constantly shifting your strategy. You've done a much better job than the rest of us at that, while making this 'fucking idiot' straighten up and fly right."
"Oh, he's no idiot when it comes to fucking!" Kara smirked.
"Kara Blanchard!" I exclaimed in mock horror. "I'm shocked!"
Bethany was laughing so hard she was almost in tears. Kara also broke up at my comment. It took several minutes for both girls to regain their composures.
"On that, Kara, I will agree with you. I don't know how 'wild' you've been with him, but trust me, full-on wild with him generally results in unconsciousness."
"Bethany, dial it back just a bit, please," I requested.
"No, she shouldn't! And neither should Joyce, Melanie or even Mary!" Kara said. "I can handle it. I keep telling you that I'm not the same little girl you met in chemistry class. I just haven't had a chance to show you because of my dad!"
"Uh oh!" Bethany smirked. "Inquiring minds want to know!"
"Steve will find out, eventually. He would have already, but for my big mouth!"
"It was foolish to tell your dad you two were screwing, Kara," Bethany said gently.
"I know," Kara sighed. "But do you know how badly I wanted to stand up on the lunch table and tell the entire school about us? I just hate that I had to hide it."
"You really have changed, Kara. I remember when Steve first said he was going to take you out for ice cream. I was shocked because I knew your reputation as one of the holiest of the Holy Rollers."
"You've kissed him. Tell me what you wanted to do the first time you kissed him?"
"I didn't even have to kiss him. I danced with him, and not even that close. I wanted him to ravish me right there on the damned dance floor at the Turnabout Dance! I was afraid to even hug him and even so, I wanted him!"
"I wanted him when he offered, using a bible verse, to lick my pussy. It made me squishy inside!"
"Steve Adams is a one man wrecking crew!" Bethany joked.
"I said he collected hymens like kids collect baseball cards!"
"He didn't get mine, but he insists that he did. Do you know the story?"
"Not really. Will you tell me?"
I just focused on the road. I put in a different ABBA tape and listened to the music while the girls talked. Bethany told Kara about the rape, the pregnancy, and the abortion, and how Jennifer had suggested that she ask me to the Turnabout dance Freshman year, and how I'd helped her. She explained what I'd once told her about firsts.
"It really was the perfect thing to say. And it's true. I didn't have sex with Josh Benton. He raped me. That wasn't sex."
The abortion made me think of Becky, who had aborted my baby at her mother's insistence. I'd grieved for quite some time for that loss, though not as long as I'd grieved for Birgit. In the end, though, I'd used the same technique. I'd written letters to both of them saying goodbye. One to Birgit, the love of my life, and one to my unborn child, conceived with Becky when she'd deceived me about birth control.
Becky had been one of my first girlfriends, but she'd pushed too hard and too soon for a permanent, lifetime relationship. On more than one occasion, I'd been with her after we'd broken up. The last time, just seven months ago, had almost ruined my life. It was only Kara's love and forgiveness for me in response to my cheating on her with Becky that had allowed me to become the man I was. Kara had been instrumental in my growth as a person.
At that point, The Name of the Game came on. My mind immediately went to Birgit. I heard the words from Birgit's last letter to me, written the morning of the day she had died.
Your smile and the sound of your voice; And the way you see through me; Got a feeling, you give me no choice; But it means a lot to me;
For the first time in over a year, a tear ran down my cheek as I remembered that fateful day, and I coughed, stifling a sniffle.
"Steve? What's wrong?" Kara asked, clearly worried.
"It's OK Kara," Bethany answered before I could say anything. "It's that song. It's something Birgit wrote to him in her last letter. Stephanie told me about it. She wanted me to know, just in case. The other song that might set him off is Love Isn't Easy. She used to end her letters with Love isn't easy, but it sure is hard enough."
"I'm fine girls," I replied, "it just took me by surprise. I loved her so much and I miss her even today. I'll be fine."
I quickly composed myself, wondering why, despite having heard that song dozens of times just during the past year, it hit me so hard today. I thought it might be the emotion of leaving Milford, and that made sense. We passed Indianapolis and made good time to the West Lafayette exit. We filled the cars with gasoline, bought some coffee, and then continued on towards Chicago. Our next stop would be in Hyde Park. I'd given my dad the address of the apartment, but I'd go by the rental agent to pick up my keys and then meet him on 53rd street.
"What's the plan when we get to Chicago, Steve?" Bethany asked.
"Unload the car and U-Haul, then buy some furniture. I need a bed, a dresser, and some living room and dining room furniture."
"Oh! A bed. Maybe we can christen it!" Kara giggled.
"All three of us?" Bethany smirked.
"Now there's an idea!" I chuckled. "Though I think Kara's mom might object to that."
"I might object to that!" Kara said with fake annoyance.
"Only might?" I teased.
"Oh shush, Snuggle Bear!" she said.
Bethany burst into laughter, once again laughing so hard it brought tears to her eyes.
"Snuggle Bear?" she said when she recovered her composure.
"That's my nickname for him. Like it?"
I just groaned and resigned myself to the fact that I'd be the object of merciless teasing from these two.
The girls chattered until we crossed the border into Illinois. A short time later we exited the Dan Ryan Expressway at Garfield and went to the leasing office where I picked up the keys. I also asked for the location of a couple of furniture stores and a department store. They gave me a list of several stores that were within 30 minutes and I went back out to the car.
We drove the five blocks to the apartment on 53rd street where Dad had, to my surprise and delight, been able to park the station wagon and U-Haul in front of the building. I pulled up behind them, leaving enough space to open the doors on the trailer and unload it. We got out and I unlocked the door to the building, propped it open and then we took the elevator up to the second floor. I opened the door of Apartment 204 and walked into my new home.
"This is awesome!" Kara said as she and Bethany walked around.
"I agree! Look at those bay windows! Two in the living room and one in each bedroom."
"This is a nice place, Son," Dad said. "I think you found a perfect place for the next four years."
"Let's get everything brought in. I'm taking the far bedroom, the one with two outside walls. I want the extra window!"
Everyone pitched in and within an hour we had everything inside. We needed to eat so we walked around the neighborhood and selected a small Chinese restaurant with a couple of tables and ate lunch. When we finished, we all piled into the station wagon - Dad and Mrs. Blanchard in the front, Kara, Bethany and me in the middle and Stephanie and Ed in the very back. I gave Dad the addresses to the different stores and we looked at the Chicago Street Atlas that he had bought me and figured out our best route. Three hours and a friendly debate between Stephanie and Kara over style later, we had everything in the trailer except the couch, love seat and chairs, all of which would be delivered on Monday. I had settled the style debate by going with Scandinavian modern and a minimalist approach. My dad had graciously paid for everything, refusing to take no for an answer.
Once again, everyone pitched in to take the bedroom and dining room furniture up to the apartment. Our next trip was to a Venture department store to purchase sheets, towels, curtains, pots, pans, dishes, and other things I needed for the kitchen, and then a stop at Jewel to purchase groceries. Back at the apartment we brought everything in and the girls put everything away in the kitchen while my dad and I set up the bed and Ed set up the dining room furniture, with a bit of help from my sister. Kara helped me make the bed, whispering that she wished there was a way to try it out.
Ed and Kara helped me hang the curtains. The bay windows were a bit tricky, but my dad had helped me figure out exactly what hardware I'd need to be able to hang curtains so I could tie them back and let light in when I wanted. I bought the same hardware for Elyse's room, but I'd leave to her to decide what color curtains she wanted. With no one else looking in, Bethany and Kara got on the bed and stretched out. They giggled at me, and quickly stood back up. I groaned with that image now burned into my mind and I put the last decorating touch; some throw pillows and a thin, cushioned mat in the bay window so that I would be able to sit there comfortably.
The only problem I ran into was that my room was a bit too small to have both computer desks, but the living room was large enough that I could put one of them, in the corner and it wouldn't be in the way. I decided to put the Apple ][ in the living room because that was the one I used the most and I hoped that Elyse and I would spend time together, even if it was just sitting doing homework similar to how Sofia and I had done while I was in Sweden. Elyse would be joining me in about two weeks, and I had quite a bit to do before she arrived.
We sat relaxing on beanbag chairs and pillows and I checked the Yellow Pages for a formal wear shop. I'd need to rent an outfit for the 'Black Tie' event hosted by the Russian Trade Office on Wednesday. I called a store that was close, only three blocks from the apartment, and gave them my sizes. I arranged to pick everything up early Wednesday afternoon. After I hung up, I placed a call to the Russian Trade Office to find out if there were any changes and was told that Tatyana had left a message asking me to call her at her hotel on Sunday.
I thought back to the skiing trip in Austria when I'd been an exchange student and how I'd met Tatyana, the daughter of a Russian diplomat. At the time, he'd been assigned to Vienna as a Trade Attaché and now was in Chicago on a trade mission to set up distributors for Belarus tractors. Tatyana and I had maintained a pen pal relationship for the past eighteen months and she was taking a vacation in the US with her mother while her father was assigned here. In Austria I was sure she'd had 'minders' watching her while we skied, and her father had ensured that we only saw each other in the evening under his watchful eye.
Dad reminded me that I'd need to find the local post office and file a change of address form as well as to send my new address to all my friends. He suggested doing that as soon as possible. He didn't say it, but I suspect he was worried that my mom might not forward my mail. I was just happy that I was out of the house. The stress of living with my mom had created all kinds of issues, but now I was free. I had some concerns about my little sister, but I'd talked to my dad about that. The fact that her boyfriend was along for this trip gave me some comfort.
"Steve, can we take a walk around the neighborhood before dinner?" Kara asked.
"Sure. Just you and me?"
"Yes, please," she said.
"Have fun, Kara. Have fun, Snuggle Bear!" Bethany simpered, laughing.
"Snuggle Bear? Oh God, no!" Stephanie groaned.
"That's what she called him!"
"Let's get out of here now, while I have SOME dignity intact!" I grinned.
My own dad even mouthed silently 'Bye, Snuggle Bear' as he gave me a quick wave! I just shook my head. He really liked Kara and I knew that he hoped we would end up together.
I took Kara's hand and we headed out, saying that we'd be back within an hour. We walked East down 53rd Street, which was towards Lake Michigan.
"This is a really nice neighborhood. How close is IIT?"
"About 20 blocks north, but some of the neighborhoods between here and there aren't very good. The El is safe, and of course we'll have my car. You've decided on IIT for sure?"
"That's where you're going, so yes, it makes sense to make it my first choice. Northwestern is my second choice. I need a third, because you said Rosary was a bad idea."
"University of Chicago wouldn't be a bad third choice. Northwestern is pretty far, so you would probably need your own car, though we could probably share mine if our schedules line up."
"I'll worry about that when I see where I'm accepted. My SAT and ACT scores were nearly as good as yours, just like my grades, plus, IIT really needs more girls!"
"True. At 8.5 to 1, it's pretty heavily male. When will you tell your dad?"
"I'm not sure just yet. I have my applications ready to go and I'm going to send them in next week. My college money came from my mom's parents' will, so there really isn't anything Dad can do to stop it."
We walked around the neighborhood, checking out the shops and restaurants, as well as some interesting architecture. We found a Frank Lloyd Wright designed house that we both thought was totally cool. We didn't have time to go in for a tour, but I made a mental note to do that. After about forty-five minutes we walked back to the apartment to join everyone else for dinner.
Dinner was at a small Italian restaurant on Garfield Avenue. Once we'd finished, we walked back to the apartment so that everyone else could head back to Milford. We went inside so that everyone could use the bathroom and then we began our goodbyes. Stephanie and I hugged and she kissed me on the cheek.
"Good luck, big brother. I love you! Call me, please!" she whispered.
"Thanks Stephanie. I love you, too! And I will!" I whispered back.
She stepped back and I shook hands with Ed, and reminded him to take good care of my little sister. I shook hands with my dad, since he'd never been one to show physical affection. I hugged Mrs. Blanchard lightly and thanked her again for allowing Kara to come along.
"Steve, I think we'll go out to the car so you can Kara can say goodbye," my dad said.
"Five minutes, Kara, no more than that," Mrs. Blanchard said.
Everyone except Kara and Bethany left to get in the station wagon.
"Kara, may I kiss your boyfriend?" Bethany asked.
"Yes, of course. You've done a heck of a lot more than kiss him in the past!" Kara giggled. "And I know you'll do more in the future," she sighed.
Bethany still blushed a bit as she stepped into my arms and we exchanged a soft, loving French kiss.
"I'll let you know when I'm in Madison, Steve," she said, and headed out the door.
"Kara, I'm going to miss you something fierce," I said once Bethany was gone.
"Me too. I wish I could stay with you right now! That the first night in the apartment you and I could make love in our bed!"
"I noticed that your mom was very clear on the time limit!" I chuckled.
"She can't let anyone have any idea that she's not following my dad's rules, though this is a technical violation!"
We embraced and kissed softly, our tongues dancing, our bodies melting together. The separation was going to be tough and it would test us. Kara broke the kiss.
"Remember, Steve. I want you to behave. I know we're not steady now, but I expect you to stay under control and be the man I need you to be."
"Yes, Kara. I'll do my best. Elyse and Kathy will help keep me in line."
"Good. I wish things were different, but like I said, I have to deal with life as I find it. On the other hand, this time next year, you'll belong to me, with no exceptions."
"I love you, Kara," I said, holding her tight.
"I love you, Snuggle Bear!" she giggled.
I gave her a quick kiss and then walked her down to the car where everyone else was waiting. She got into the middle seat with Bethany and I closed the door behind her. Everyone waved as they pulled away. As they headed back to Milford, I headed back up to my apartment. I shut the door behind me and took it all in.
I was truly on my own!
I woke up on Sunday morning in my very own apartment. My first order of business was figuring out a route to jog because I no longer had easy access to a swimming pool. I looked at the street atlas, mapped out a route that was mostly in Washington Park. I put on my shorts, t-shirt, and sneakers and headed out. On my route I noticed a sign for a martial arts studio and wondered if that might not be a good way to get exercise, as well as come in handy for self-defense. Both Illinois and Chicago had severe controls on handguns and I'd need to be very careful with the 9mm that Andreas had provided for me back in Milford. I memorized the phone number of the studio so I could call on Monday.
When I returned from my run, I showered, dressed, and ate breakfast. I already missed my sister, and didn't know anyone in Chicago, though in a week Elyse would be with me. That wasn't the same, but it would help. After I cleaned up I called Karin. We had a good chat, and before I hung up I made sure she had my new address and phone number.
I spent the rest of the morning unpacking as well as assembling bookshelves and an entertainment center. My TV was modest so I had no problem lifting it by myself to put it on the appropriate shelf. I also realized that a radio wasn't sufficient and that I'd need a stereo. We'd had one at home, but that one hadn't been mine. I'd have to look for one on Monday.
Just before lunch I dialed the phone number that Andreas had given me and identified myself as 'the kid from Milford' as Andreas had told me to do. The gruff voice on the other end of the phone gave me an address, told me it was in Cicero, and asked if I had a car and could get there later today. I quickly looked in my street atlas and told him that I could be there around 2:30pm.
I ate my lunch and mapped out my route. I'd take the Dan Ryan to I-55 and get off at Central Avenue, then head north to West 36th Street. It was pretty straightforward, and I guessed it would take about thirty minutes to get there. To be safe, I decided to leave around 1:45pm. I finished my lunch, and had time to put my books on the bookshelves and set up the Apple computer. Those tasks completed, I changed into slacks and a polo and headed out to my meeting in Cicero.
I arrived early, as I had intended, and found a parking spot just around the corner from the address I'd been given. I got out of my car, locked it, then walked the half-block to 36th Street and another half block to the address. I walked up the steps and knocked on the door. I saw a shadow at the window through gauze curtains and then the door was opened and I walked inside. I was greeted by a guy who was only a couple of years older than me.
"Arms out. I need to pat you down," he said.
He quickly and expertly checked for weapons or tape recorders or whatever he was looking for, and then led me into a room where two middle-aged Italian men were sitting. They introduced themselves as Tony and Frank and told me to sit down.
"So, you're the kid from Milford," Frank said. "We hear good things about you from Cincinnati. You do what you're told and keep your mouth shut."
"And we hear you're dating Don Joseph's granddaughter, so you must be OK," Tony said with a knowing smile.
"If she was unhappy," I replied with a similar smile, "I don't think I'd be sitting here. Or anywhere."
Both men laughed.
"You're on the payroll," Tony said. "You'll get $250 a week to start with. You're going to Illinois Tech? And you live by University of Chicago?"
"That's right. My class schedule is pretty simple. I'm free evenings, weekends, and Tuesday and Thursday afternoons."
"Well, you'll be working mostly at home, I guess," Frank said. "I hear you're some kind of wizard with these new computers that they're selling."
"That's right; I wrote some programs for some of the operations in Cincinnati."
"Explain how this works," Frank instructed.
I explained about the way the computers were used to keep records and how everything could be wiped out with the press of a button or with a magnet, and how it was easy to keep a copy safely someplace else so you didn't lose everything. Nothing would need to be written on paper. They were as intrigued by this as Don Joseph had been. I explained the programs for the brothel and how it kept track of clients and girls and could match people up based on some simple questions.
We worked out an arrangement for me to show them the programs and if they were happy, I'd be given the money to purchase the computers and then install them. We agreed that they would come to my apartment on Tuesday morning.
"We may have some other stuff for you to do from time to time as well."
"Just let me know."
"We have a guy in Hyde Park; his name is Theo. He'll contact you if he needs anything, and he's the one who'll pay you every week."
He gave me Theo's address and phone number and I gave them mine. As I was leaving, he handed me an envelope that I shoved into my pocket. I walked out to the car and headed home. When I arrived back at my place, I checked the envelope and found five hundred dollars which I could use to buy things I still needed. That reminded me that I needed to open a bank account, so I started a list of things I needed to do. I finished putting everything away and added a few things to my list. I stashed all the empty boxes and packing materials in Elyse's room.
Before I fixed dinner, I called the Hilton Hotel and Towers downtown and asked for Tatyana Voronina. I was put through to her room and she answered on the third ring.
"«Добрый день! Татьяна говорит!»"
"Hello, this is Steve Adams. Is this Tatyana?"
"Oh yes, sorry! I simply said 'Good Afternoon, Tatyana speaking'. How are you?"
"Very good, thanks. I'm living in Chicago as of yesterday."
"Very nice. You are able to come to reception on Wednesday?"
"Yes. I'm really looking forward to it."
"Good. You shall be escort. It is possible to see you before reception?"
"Of course. Other than tomorrow morning, I don't have any specific plans for the rest of the week. Do you want me to come there?"
"Is easiest, I think. I have bodyguard who must be with me except when I am in room."
Bodyguard? Probably. Minder? Most certainly. I wondered if she'd be allowed to be alone with me.
"When did you want to see me?" I asked.
"Perhaps tomorrow afternoon? We can go to Sears Tower and Art Museum? Bodyguard must join us."
"That's fine. If it's OK, I'd like to take you out to dinner for Chicago-style Pizza."
"I would like! I check with mother, but I am sure she say 'yes'. You come at thirteen tomorrow?"
A woman after my own heart, using 24-hour time. I'd picked up the habit in Sweden and strongly preferred it. I'd also picked up a serious respect for the metric system and wished the US had simply changed in the 70's when it had been seriously discussed.
"Yes, I'll see you at thirteen!"
We hung up and I reflected on things we had talked about in Austria and her letters. She'd only been allowed to start dating when she turned seventeen, which had been this past January. It would be interesting to see how a date accompanied by a bodyguard went. I laughed when I realized that Kara's dad probably wished he'd kept a bodyguard with her, not to protect her life, but to protect her virginity! I also knew, in this case, the bodyguard was to make sure she didn't defect, in addition to protecting her.
I cooked a simple dinner and after I ate, I cleaned up and then called Kara.
"Hi Snuggle Bear!" she giggled.
I sighed, "You just had to say that in front of Bethany! And she repeated it front of my sister!"
"Oh stop! They're girls; they understand."
"I cannot see my little sister calling ANYONE 'snuggle bear' or 'pookie' or anything like that."
"You never know! How was your first night on your own?"
"Lonely," I faux whined. "I needed you in my bed with me!"
"Oh don't feed me those lines, Steve Adams! You were just fine; I know better."
"You do! But it is true; I wish you were here with me now, instead of next year."
"Me too. I decided to tell my dad about my school choices today. He flipped his lid."
"Of course he did. He was hoping you would go off to one of those Evangelical schools and forget about me. In fact, I bet he told you he was hoping you would go to Grace Bible College."
"Of course he did. It's the furthest away from you. But I told him I was going to pick my own schools and study what I wanted. I guess it's going to be even worse here, now."
"Just hang in there."
"Well, he basically said he didn't want you to come visit me. He and mom had a debate about that. You can still come to dinner, but we can't go out or anything."
"He's making a huge mistake. It's the same thing I warned my mom about with regard to Stephanie. He'll drive you away if he doesn't lighten up, and you'll come straight to me when you graduate."
"That's what mom said to him after I left the room. I heard them talking; he doesn't agree."
"Neither did my mom. It wouldn't surprise me to see my sister pick a school close to wherever I'm living. I already promised to help her buy her own car so my mom can't mess with her. That will make my mom angry, but I simply don't care."
"Well, we can't fix any of this today. I have a year of High School left. When do you think you'll come and visit?"
"Maybe Labor Day weekend. Even though they'll only have been gone from home a few weeks, maybe Kathy, Elyse, and Bethany would want to come home, and if Bethany drove here from Madison, we could all drive down together to save gas and wear and tear. See what your mom thinks. Make sure you talk to her first, not your dad."
"I will! I want to see you!"
"I want to see you, too. I'm marking the dates on my calendar!"
We talked for a few more minutes and after we expressed our love, hung up. I made quick calls to Kathy and Elyse to give them the address and phone number. Kathy said she'd call me when she moved into her dorm and Elyse said that she'd see me on Sunday when her parents brought her to Chicago.
I went over my list of things that I wanted to do on Monday and realized that most, if not all of them would need to be done later in the week because I was seeing Tatyana. I knew she was in town through Friday, but I wasn't sure what her plans were beyond today and the reception. Nothing on the list was urgent.
I curled up with The Stand in the bay window and read until about 10:00pm. I wrote in my journal and then turned in. It was nice sleeping in a queen-sized bed after having only had a twin bed at home. I'd been spoiled staying at Melanie's with Karin and Jennifer, and was glad to have the larger bed.
On Monday morning I kept to my new routine of jogging and breakfast. The furniture delivery was scheduled for between 8:00am and 10:00am, so I had to hang around the apartment. At 9:00am I called the dojo and got a recording saying they didn't open until 10:00am. I made a note to call again later because I'd be leaving to go downtown before then. I called about cable TV, which Elyse had mentioned, and was told that the apartment building was wired and basic channels were free. I just needed a coaxial cable and I'd be all set. I decided to wait for Elyse to see if she wanted any additional channels, because I watched almost no television. I added getting a coaxial cable to my list, figuring I could get one at the stereo store or, if not, at a Radio Shack.
At 9:30am the buzzer rang and I was happy to see the furniture delivery truck parked in front of the building when I looked out. I buzzed them in and when they left twenty minutes later I had a couch, love seat and two easy chairs to go with the coffee table, standing lamps, and entertainment center. I grabbed the throw pillows I'd purchased and tossed them on the couch. I realized I needed some artwork for the walls and added that to my 'to do' list.
I reviewed the list and checked the phone book for the closest post office. I walked the 5 blocks to the Post Office which was in a cool looking brick building that really fitted the neighborhood. I filled out the change of address form and turned it in, then asked the clerk about the DMV. He told me that in Illinois it was the Secretary of State's office, and that the best option was either downtown or in Bridgeview. I thanked him and walked home.
I pulled out the phone book and found the number for the Secretary of State's office in the Loop and called to find out about getting an Illinois driving license as well as plates for my car. I got all the details and decided to head downtown immediately, because I'd have two hours before I needed to meet Tatyana. I dressed in white slacks with a dark blue polo, grabbed my fedora, and headed downtown. I parked the car in a parking garage near the Sears Tower, then walked the short distance to the Secretary of State's office. I was happy to see that the wait was short enough that I'd be able to get my license and plates and still have time to make it to the hotel by 1:00pm.
After filling out the forms and handing over my Ohio license, Ohio Title and Registration, and some cash, I was given new plates and had my picture taken. Ten minutes later I walked out with my new license and went back to the car. I got a screwdriver from my small toolkit I kept in the trunk and quickly swapped the plates. I put the paperwork in the glove compartment and then locked the car. I checked my watch, and saw I had just enough time to grab lunch at Wendy's on State Street. After I ate my double cheeseburger and fries, I took the Red Line Subway to Chicago Street, then walked over the North Michigan Avenue. I arrived at the hotel about five minutes to 1:00pm.
I went to the reception desk and asked them to ring Tatyana's room. They did and I picked up the courtesy phone to speak to her. She told me that she would be right down and that I was to wait. About ten minutes later I saw Tatyana step out of the elevator with a woman who appeared to be in her early 30's. I chuckled to myself because for some reason I'd assumed her bodyguard would be a man, but it made sense because a female bodyguard could follow her everywhere, including into the restroom.
Tatyana walked across the lobby to where I was standing.
"Good afternoon, Steve!" she said, kissing me three times on the cheek in the Russian style. "This is Major Anisimova, my bodyguard."
Major, as in 'KGB', I thought to myself.
"Hi Tatyana," I replied. "Good afternoon, Major Anisimova."
"Hello, Mr. Adams. As you know, I will be with you and Tatyana for the afternoon. She has explained this, yes?"
"Yes, she has. I hope you'll enjoy the sight-seeing as well."
She ignored my attempt to be friendly, which, ultimately, didn't surprise me.
"Please remember you must tell me each place you plan to go before we go there. And if I say 'no', then we do not go. Your government has put restrictions on our travel as well as the ones we have ourselves."
Wonderful. As much as I disliked communism, the idea that this seventeen-year old girl was some kind of threat to national security was just silly. In fact, it was beyond silly, it was stupid.
"I understand," I replied. "Tatyana wanted to go to the Sears Tower observation deck, then the Art Museum, and then I asked her to go to dinner at a Chicago-style Pizza restaurant called Pizzeria Uno."
"Yes, all are approved. Do we travel by foot, taxi, or metro?"
"Metro, I guess, if you mean the subway."
"Yes, subway. You are not carrying any weapon?"
"No, Major. Do you need to frisk me?"
"Is not necessary. I do not think you lie. And besides, with clothes you wear, unlikely you hide something."
Which was true. My clothes were comfortable, but not loose. I supposed I could have had a stiletto in my sock, but I was sure that by the time I pulled it out, I'd have two bullets in me and I'd be dead. This was going to be an interesting day to say the least. I noticed that Major Anisimova was wearing a windbreaker over her casual clothes and I would have bet anything I owned that she was carrying a gun. I guessed as part of the protection detail for the trade delegation she had some kind of permission from the US government, but then again, maybe not. That said, I wasn't about to find out the hard way!
Tatyana took my hand and we walked out of the hotel, then towards Chicago Avenue and then to State Street where we boarded the Red Line for the trip south. Tatyana and I chatted quietly about things we'd done over the past year and a half that we hadn't written in our letters. She had one more year of school before she went to university, and said she was hoping to be permitted to apply to study in the US, but wasn't sure it would be granted.
We talked about the US boycott of the Olympic Games the previous year, and both agreed it was a mistake, though she was careful not to say anything critical of her government. I on the other hand, was extremely critical of Jimmy Carter. While I wasn't exactly thrilled with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, boycotting the Olympics in Moscow had been just plain stupid and only punished the athletes. I did tease her a bit about the Soviet ice hockey team losing to the Americans and asked if Tikhonov had been sent to Siberia. Tatyana giggled but I got a hard stare from Major Anisimova. Apparently the KGB had no sense of humor.
We arrived at Jackson Street and exited the subway and walked to the Sears Tower. I paid our entry fee for the Skydeck and the three of us rode the elevator to the 103rd floor observation deck. I'd been to the Skydeck with my former Swedish girlfriend Katt, her ice dancing partner Mikael, and my sister Stephanie just a month before, but was still in awe of the breathtaking views that the Skydeck offered. Although she tried not to show it, I saw in Major Anisimova's eyes that she was impressed as well. Tatyana moved around to look each direction and asked questions about the view. I did my best to answer, though being only a two-day resident of Chicago, I had limited knowledge. Fortunately, a guide was available and stayed with us explaining things to Tatyana. I listened and stored that information away for future use.
When Tatyana had seen enough, she again took my hand and we took the elevator down to the ground floor, under the watchful eye of Major Anisimova. We walked along Jackson to Michigan Avenue and a block north to the Art Institute of Chicago. Once again, I paid our admission and Tatyana and I walked through the various exhibition rooms, closely accompanied by her bodyguard. I wondered if I'd be shot if I tried to kiss Tatyana goodnight later!
Just before 6:00pm we left the museum and walked back to State Street to take the Red Line subway back north to Grand Avenue and then walk the two blocks to the restaurant. We waited about fifteen minutes for a table and I ordered deep dish pepperoni pizza. I was happy to see that both Tatyana and Major Anisimova liked the pizza.
"Is different from pizza in Europe," Tatyana said.
"And from New York," her bodyguard added.
"Where I used to live in Cincinnati I think it's more like the pizza in New York. This is Chicago-style and it's the best, in my opinion!"
I was surprised when Major Anisimova thanked me for the meal and said it was very good. Perhaps I was breaking through that exterior, but I doubted it. She had a job to do and I was sure that she wasn't going to let some teenage American kid interfere! So far, I'd enjoyed my day with Tatyana, despite the close supervision. I imagined this was indeed what Kara's dad thought a date should be like.
We finished eating and because Tatyana had not suggested anything else, we walked back to the hotel. When we walked inside Tatyana asked me to wait and called her mother's room. She came back a minute later and asked if I wanted to come up to meet her mother. I had, in fact, not met her mother or father in Austria, though I had seen them at a distance. We rode the elevator up to the fifth floor. When we exited, I noticed a plainclothes officer standing in the hallway. I noticed another plainclothes officer at the other end of the hall. I wondered if they were local or federal, but didn't think it was a good idea to ask.
When we came to the room, Mrs. Voronin dismissed Major Anisimova saying that Tatyana would not be going out again. She greeted me in the Russian style with three kisses on the cheek and invited me in. She offered me a drink and pointed to the fully stocked bar. I accepted and poured myself a very small amount of vodka into a glass. After my experience with it in Sweden I reminded myself to be VERY careful. Tatyana poured herself a glass of Sprite.
"You like vodka?" Mrs. Voronin asked.
"I've only had it a few times before. My dad usually drinks other things and my other adult friends drink whisky or sambuca," I said, sipping from the glass.
"Russian men drink lots of vodka!" she said. "Do you drink a lot?"
"Usually only a glass or two of wine with dinner. I don't drink a lot."
"That's good," she laughed.
I noticed that she was using articles when she spoke, unlike her daughter or her daughter's bodyguard. I didn't know any Russian at all and I wondered about that. It was something to find out later, as I didn't want to say anything which might embarrass myself, or decidedly worse, Tatyana.
"Please, sit, and tell me about yourself," Mrs. Voronin said.
We spent the next hour talking about my trip to Sweden, High School, my hobbies, what I was studying, and just about anything else she could think to ask. Tatyana sat by my side on the couch and held my hand while I talked with her mother. Mrs. Voronin told me that her husband was in Milwaukee looking at a possible place for their US office and would return on Wednesday in time for the reception. She thanked me for acting as Tatyana's escort for the reception. I'd get to meet the members of the trade delegation, plus the managing director of the company they were establishing, Mr. Viktor Bykov.
It was just after 9:00pm when Mrs. Voronin said something in Russian to Tatyana and they carried on a short conversation. Tatyana stood up and I did as well, and her mother said good night to me and said she looked forward to seeing me on Wednesday. I said goodnight and Tatyana and I left the room. I was a bit surprised when Tatyana took my hand and led me away from the elevators.
"My mother give permission for spending time alone, so long as I promise to be good girl."
I suppressed a chuckle. That sounded like Mr. Blanchard and Kara, but I was making no assumptions at all. Under the watchful eye of the two men whom I now assumed were FBI agents, we went into Tatyana's room. Her room wasn't quite as big as her parents', but it was larger than a normal room. She directed me to the couch and we sat down together.
"I want kiss! You don't try to get kiss all day! Not like Austria!"
"I was afraid Major Anisimova had orders from your father to shoot me if I tried!"
"Is possible!" Tatyana giggled. "But do not think so."
She leaned in and we exchanged a soft kiss, slightly more than a peck.
"Yes. Is better. Thank you. Do you want another?"
"I'll take as many as you are willing to give."
We kissed for about five minutes, mostly just soft pecks on the lips, with a few held for ten seconds or so, then Tatyana parted her lips and our tongues tentatively touched, then slowly twirled and tangled with each other. I slid my hand up her side under her arm and when she didn't object, I moved it to cup her small, firm breast. Tatyana broke the kiss.
"I do not think mother would consider being good girl," she giggled.
"Do you want me to stop?"
"No, but is limit. Understand?"
"Yes," I said, nodding.
We kissed for another ten minutes or so, with me softly caressing her breasts through her blouse. Tatyana broke the kiss and sat up, straightening her blouse.
"I think is time for you to go," she said breathlessly. "Do you wish to have dinner tomorrow?"
"Yes, that would be fun. Where?"
"Here. We order room service and we can eat without bodyguard to interfere. You come at seventeen, please?"
"I'll be here!" I said.
We kissed softly, then she kissed me goodbye Russian style and I headed out of the hotel. I took the subway then walked to my car, paid the outrageous parking fee and headed home. Since it was two hours earlier in Seattle, I picked up the phone and dialed Jennifer's number. Her mom answered the phone.
"Steve! Thank you for what you did for Jennifer. She had her first appointment with a therapist today!"
"That's good to hear! How is she doing?"
"She's eating and seems somewhat happier. Let me put her on the phone."
Jennifer came to the phone. She sounded good, though I knew that she still had a long way to go.
"How's the new apartment?" she asked.
"Good. It's mostly set up. I need some stuff for the walls and a stereo, but otherwise, I'd say this is home for the next four years. Elyse will be here on Sunday."
"Will you let me come visit? I asked mom and dad and they said it would be OK."
"Jennifer," I replied gently, "remember, we're friends."
"Yes, I know," she sighed. "I would come just as a friend. I know you're going to be with Kara."
"Then yes, just let me know. I assume you're thinking about Christmas break?"
"Yes. Are you going home?"
"For part of it, yes, but I'll be back in Chicago for New Year's, probably around the 29th or so."
"OK," she said. "I'll talk to dad about it."
"Good. Are you planning to keep in touch with the rest of our friends?"
"Yes. I plan to talk to Melanie from time to time, but I'm going to talk to Larry at least once a week. We used to be so close and perhaps we can help each other."
I knew what she was talking about and wondered myself just how Larry had coped through High School. He and I had never once broached the subject of relationships, except for those times when he felt a need to let me know I was acting stupidly.
"Good, Jennifer. That's very good."
I told her about the apartment and what I'd been doing the past few days. She laughed when I told her about seeing Tatyana and told me she wasn't surprised that a girl would fly 9,000 miles to see me! That of course, made me stop and consider how far I could go with Tatyana and still consider it 'behaving'. I decided to call my sister on Tuesday and get her perspective.
Jennifer told me about her therapy sessions and it sounded very similar to what I'd done with Doctor Mercer. She said she'd told her therapist the outline of our relationship and all the issues that we'd had. I was happy to hear that and told Jennifer that I was, and that it was important for her to keep working on this. She had about three weeks before she would go to Stanford and her therapist was referring her to someone she knew in Palo Alto. The two would work together so that Jennifer had access to someone both at home and at school. We talked for another ten minutes then said our goodbyes.
I checked my list for Tuesday and then checked the Yellow Pages for banks and stereo stores, as well as the nearest Radio Shack. I wrote down the information I needed and put it with my list. I grabbed my book to read for a bit then turned in.
Tuesday was busy. Frank and Tony arrived early, about 7:45, and I demonstrated the programs for them. They were especially interested in the program that tracked the girls and customers for the brothel. When they left at 8:45am they told me that they would be in touch soon with instructions.
When they left, I went to First Chicago Bank and opened an account with a Cashier's Check that I had brought with me, drawn on my account in Milford. I'd write a regular check to move most of the rest of the money. I got a card from the bank that would allow me to withdraw money from a machine in the lobby, even after hours, which was something I'd not had in Milford. Once my account was opened, I drove to the stereo store I'd located in the Yellow Pages and bought the components I wanted - a tuner, an amplifier with a built-in equalizer, a tape deck, a turntable, and a pair of speakers. I went with moderately priced equipment, and managed to stay within my rough budget.
I stopped at Radio Shack and picked up the cable I needed for the television, and while I was there decided to get an answering machine as well. I headed back to the apartment and when I had everything set up, I put on Pink Floyd's The Wall as the first ever album on my new stereo. I set up the answering machine and after reading the instructions recorded my message. I ate lunch and then called the karate dojo. The instructor, James Miller, asked me to come over right away if I could. I told him I'd walk over immediately.
I put on shorts and t-shirt and walked a few blocks to "JM Martial Arts" and walked in. I was greeted by one of the tallest, meanest looking guys I'd ever seen. He introduced himself as James Miller, US Army, retired, a former Green Beret. He taught Shōtōkan karate and we discussed why I was interested in martial arts. I told him it was for fitness and self-defense and he gave me a proposed training schedule that included a one-on-one lesson each week and three group classes.
I could select the times, so long as I was there three times each week. I looked over the schedule and saw that there were afternoon and evening classes scattered through the week and on Saturday, and there were adult classes at times that fit my class schedule. I signed up and paid my first month's fee. I told him that I'd like to start the following week, as I was just getting settled. We agreed on my first private lesson to be the following Monday, and I'd get my uniform and belt at the first class. I thanked him and headed back to the apartment.
I was happy with the progress I'd made in getting things set up. All I needed to do was get something to put on the walls and I decided that I'd stop by the art museum and get some posters. I hopped in the car and drove down to the Loop, parked as close as I could to the museum, and went into the gift shop. I selected eight posters that reproduced a mix of Dutch, French and Russian art. On the way home, I stopped at Venture and bought some poster tape to put them on the walls.
I checked the time and saw that I had enough time to call home and get some advice.
I called Stephanie to talk to her about Tatyana because I needed her input.
"Steph, you remember me writing about a Russian girl named Tatyana that I met in Austria?"
"Yeah, wasn't her dad some kind of diplomat?"
"Yes, he was Trade Attaché in Vienna. Well, he's here trying to set up a company to distribute Russian-built tractors, and she and her mom are with him, taking a vacation. Tomorrow night I'm her escort to a reception hosted by the Russian Trade Office here in Chicago."
"Wow! So like formal? You know you're irresistible in a tuxedo, Steve!"
"That's why I'm calling. Yesterday she and I hung out and did a bit of sightseeing, though she had a KGB bodyguard with her. We made out a little bit later that evening when we were alone."
"A little bit? So you just did it once?" my sister teased.
"Not even close. We kissed and I fondled her breast through her blouse. That's it. But I'm confused."
"You want to know if that would that be classified as 'behaving'?"
"Bingo. I didn't really feel guilty, but then again, we just kissed for a short time."
"Is there a chance it might go further?" she asked.
"What do you think?" I chuckled. "You know me. But I need to figure out where to draw the line."
"I think this is like Laura, big brother. It's a girl you know, you aren't just hopping into bed with her, and there's nothing romantic, is there?"
"No. But I suspect she might be a virgin."
"Well, that's a yellow flag for sure, and it might be a red one. You've had trouble in that area before. I'm not just talking about Annie and Dona, but Trish as well."
"Yeah, that's what gives me pause here. I'm certainly not looking for a relationship with anyone. That's why Kathy is perfect. You know how we are. It's kind of like with Debbie V. I mean sure, in some bizarre set of circumstances I could be happy long-term with either of them, but they aren't Kara, Karin, Bethany or even Joyce."
"By the way, I had a chance to talk to Bethany a bit on the way home. I think she's actually going to really date in Madison, as in if she finds an acceptable guy, sleep with him."
"That's good. Even if things don't work out with Kara the way I want them to, Bethany needs to break this infatuation she has with me. Even if she only ever has sex with one guy, one time, in Madison, it'll make all the difference in the world. She might find she doesn't need me like she thought she did, or she might prove to herself that she does. I'm pretty sure she needs to do that just like Birgit was sure I needed to be with Melanie."
"Damn, big brother. You've really changed. I used to agree with Jennifer on the whole 'having sex with someone would end things' idea, but now I'm not so sure. In fact, I'm convinced that's no longer true. Well, maybe for Kara, but nobody else."
"It's only true about Kara because she'd only do that if she thought things were completely over for us. She's either going to marry me or be celibate until someone besides me puts a ring on her finger. It's just who she is."
"That's probably true. I haven't talked with her that much in the past two months, but I think you're right. You are a very, very special exception to what she thought was right."
"Of course, we haven't answered the question."
"You're right. And I don't think we can. In fact, going forward, we can't. You have to big brother. Not me. Not Bethany. You. That's what Kara said. And she's right."
I sighed, "I know. I just needed to talk to somebody about it, I guess, just to clear my mind."
"I'll always talk to you and help you, but I can't answer those kinds of questions for you. I'm not 'Squirt' anymore. That's sad in some ways, but good in others. I'm not reading your journal and I won't. We have to make a true, clean break, Steve. And you're finally in a place where you can handle it."
"I know," I said softly. "Thanks, Stephanie. I love you."
"I love you too, Steve."
We hung up and I had no more clarity than when I had made the call. I was going to have to figure this one out on my own. One thing that was clear was that the special relationship that I had once had with my sister was gone. I was sure, that in the future, we might have talks like we used to, but they would be few and far between. They had to be, for our own good. It was sad, but it was also gratifying that we were both growing up. My little sister was no longer that, a little sister, but a young woman with her own life, her own decisions to make, and her own path. And that path necessarily diverged from mine.
Deep in thought, I showered, dressed in black slacks and a black polo, grabbed my fedora, and headed downtown for my dinner with Tatyana.
I arrived at the hotel and turned my car over to the valet. I went straight up to the fifth floor. When I exited the elevator the plainclothes officer stopped me and asked me for ID. I questioned him and he said that because I wasn't escorted, he needed ID and then he'd check to see if I was actually invited.
"Chicago Police?" I asked.
"FBI. The female officer at the other end of the hall is with the State Department."
I handed over my driving license for him to review. He took out a radio and called in my name, and when he received the all clear he walked me to Tatyana's door and knocked.
"Miss Voronin, are you expecting a Mr. Stephen Adams?"
"Yes. Thank you," she said.
The agent handed me my license and walked back to his post. Tatyana kissed me three times on the cheek Russian style and led me into the room.
"Does your mother know that I'm here?" I asked.
"Yes, of course. She trust me to be good girl! She put your name on list with FBI and Russian Security Office. That is who FBI agent call on radio. Here is invitation for reception. It is at this hotel in ballroom."
"And Major Anisimova?"
She laughed, "KGB like you think! But she is nice. I like her. She let me do what I want most of time."
"Tatyana, I notice you don't use articles like 'a', 'an' and 'the' when you speak."
"That is true. The Russian language does not have them. So sometimes it is hard to remember to do it," she said deliberately.
"It's fine, Tatyana, I was just curious."
"You should learn Russian. Would be good to know for when Soviet Union rules whole world!" she said with a big smile.
"I think Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher might have something to say about that!" I chuckled.
"Yes, is true. But we can be friends even if Comrade Brezhnev and President Reagan are not."
"I agree. Even our leaders have practiced détente from time to time!"
"Yes, is called «разрядка» in Russian. But this means not being ready to fight. I prefer we are actually friends."
"Dinner is ordered. I expect waiter in twenty minutes. Do you want drink?"
"Yes, whatever you are having."
She poured me a glass and we sat on the couch to wait for our food. She told me about her day. They had gone on a boat tour of Chicago on the river and along the lakefront. She'd only returned to her room about twenty minutes before I'd arrived, long enough to change into the skirt and blouse she was wearing and order dinner. We talked about the reception the next night. She asked if I knew how to dance and, because I was sure she was talking about formal dances like a waltz, I said that I had very little experience.
"Stand. I teach you. Is easy!" she smiled.
"Maybe for you, but I'm much better at swimming and ice skating than dancing."
"If you ice skate, you can dance. Trust me, please."
I stood up and we moved to an open spot in the room. She showed me where to put my hands, and then led me through the steps.
"We do turning box only, since little room here, but is good enough for reception. Is simple. Step first with left foot, then sideways with right foot..."
She helped me through the steps until there was a knock at the door and the waiter, accompanied by Major Anisimova, brought in a rolling table with our dinner. He quickly set up the table, uncovered the plates, opened a bottle of red wine and left with Major Anisimova close on his heels. We sat down at the table.
"Does she always do that?"
"Yes, if person comes in room who is not known to her, she must be there. You are OK because she met you yesterday."
And I thought my mom was controlling and overprotective when I was fourteen! This was like the service at The Maisonette or Bethany's dad's country club, except twenty-four hours a day!
"Tatyana, don't you find all of this a bit oppressive? I mean, being constantly watched by the KGB and needing a bodyguard?"
"I have always had bodyguard. Is life of diplomatic family. At home in Leningrad I am free to come and go as I wish, so long as mother approve. Nobody watch me and no bodyguard. Only when out of country. You do not see bodyguard when we ski in Austria?"
"No. I assumed someone was watching you but I never saw any bodyguard."
"Is young man from Vienna embassy. He look like skier on holiday. He follow us the entire time. He see you kiss me and was jealous!" she giggled.
I might get shot yet! Of course, I'd avoided it with the East German border guards when Anders Jonsson, my host father in Sweden, had made a wrong turn during a trip to Berlin. But if I could get through that, I could probably get through this, as long as I didn't upset my young lady friend!
Dinner was prime rib with mashed potatoes and green beans. We ate and drank our wine and chatted about what it was like for each of us growing up. I was amazed at how similar things were, despite the wide chasm between our governments. Of course, I wondered how much of her story was the result of being a privileged kid. I'd heard all kinds of stories about Russia but there was really no way to verify without seeing for myself.
"Do you have a boyfriend back home?" I asked.
"I did. Was son of important Party member in Leningrad. But I break it off with him because he treat me like possession. And you?"
Her ex sounded not much different from some spoiled rich kids and football players I knew.
"I've dated a lot, and there is one special girl, but we're not steady."
"It means being a couple and not dating anyone else. We might be in the future, but for now, no. She's back in Milford."
We finished eating and Tatyana called to have the table removed. We sat on the couch with coffee to talk. A few minutes later there was a knock at the door and a hotel staff member, accompanied by Major Anisimova, took away the table. Tatyana asked about my stay in Sweden and why I chose to go there. I told her about Birgit and what had happened.
"So was your first love? And she die? Is very sad. In Russia we have saying - «Жизнь прожи́ть - не по́ле перейти». I think in English is like 'Life is not crossing pretty field'."
"'Life is not a bed of roses' is probably the closest English proverb. And yes, I would agree."
I told her more about my time in Sweden and how much I enjoyed it. She told me about the places she'd been, including Iran, Austria, Finland, and Japan, all with her father as he was part of trade delegations. It certainly sounded like an exciting life.
"What is father's name?" she asked.
"Ray? Is odd name. So you are Stephen Ray Adams?"
"No, Stephen Mark Adams. Is it the custom in Russia to use the Father's name as the middle name?"
"Yes. I am Tatyana Ivanovna Voronina. Father is Ivan. I think is John in English. Father is Ivan Konstantinovich Voronin. Father is Konstantin. Mother is Anna Vasilyevna Voronin. Father is Vasily."
"I like that. So my children would have the middle name Stepanovich if they were a boy and Stepanova if they were a girl in Russia. So in the US, it would be Stephen or Stephanie. That is my little sister's name. Stephanie."
"How many brothers and sisters?"
"One of each. Both of them are younger. Jeff is sixteen and Stephanie is fourteen. I get along very well with my sister but not very well with my brother. Just like I get along very well with my dad but not with my mom."
"Is too bad, really. I wish I had sister. Would be nice. Having one child is normal for Party members."
"So your dad is a member of the Communist Party?"
"Yes. Is necessary for his job. He must be. Just as mother must be. I am member of Komsomol - Youth League. Is normal and expected. I want to be diplomat, so is necessary I join Communist Party when permitted. If I can study in US, I study at Harvard. International Relations course."
"Your government would allow you to study here?"
"Yes. For diplomats, London, Zurich, or Boston are usual. When I finish I go to diplomat school in Moscow before assignment starts."
That was interesting. I had thought this might be the only time I'd ever see Tatyana, at least for quite some time. I did want to go to Russia at some point, but that was a far-off dream. If she was in Boston, I might see her from time to time. She was turning into a good friend, one I very much enjoyed being with. I still had the question of how far I'd take this, assuming her limits changed, which was not a foregone conclusion by any means. Quite the opposite, really. So far she seemed not to be reacting the way girls usually did when I kissed them, which intrigued me.
"You wish dessert?" Tatyana asked.
I had several Smart Aleck comments that I didn't think were appropriate. Tatyana was perhaps the most proper teenager I'd ever met. We'd been taught in social studies class back in eighth grade that Russians were very formal until you really got to know them and that it was rare that they showed emotion except to their closest friends. That was exactly how Tatyana was acting.
"Yes, that would be great!" I said.
She picked up the phone and ordered cheesecake for both of us, along with another pot of coffee. A waiter arrived about ten minutes later, once again accompanied by Major Anisimova. He set out the cake and coffee on the table in front of the couch and then left. Tatyana poured us each some coffee and we ate our cake. I decided to broach the issue of how she was behaving, not as criticism, but as curiosity.
"Tatyana, you seem so formal, even when we're alone. Americans are usually much less formal."
"Yes. Is known. In Russia we are careful to always be correct in public or with people we do not know. With my close friends I can be, how do you say, silly girl?"
"That's how you would say it, yes. You don't have to be so formal around me. In fact, I'm not a big fan of formality. Oh, I like to dress up on occasion for things like Prom and this reception tomorrow, but usually, I'm pretty relaxed and casual."
"Prom? What is this?"
"It's a formal dance, maybe you would call it a ball, to celebrate the end of High School. We dress like we will tomorrow night for your reception - tuxedos for the guys and gowns for the girls. Though I suspect your dress will be more formal than most Prom dresses, if I understand correctly."
"I will wear evening gown with opera gloves. You will wear proper formal clothes, yes?"
"Yes. A tuxedo. That's more or less what Americans call 'black tie' according to the shop where I am renting my outfit for tomorrow. I don't go to things like this enough to own my own 'black tie' outfit."
"Perhaps if I study here and you escort me to other events you will need one of your own!"
Now that sounded like a major step forward. One that did set off small alarm bells warning me to be careful.
We finished our cakes and set our plates down, then picked up our coffee cups and sipped as we talked.
"You would want me to do that?" I asked.
"Yes. You are nice boy. I think father will like you. I do not like any boys from Russian Embassy in US I have met. And you know how to behave properly. I have seen. Major Anisimova has seen. Mother has seen. This is why she allow us here alone."
Her mother had seen me for all of a few minutes. But, I suspected she also had a report from Tatyana's personal KGB agent. I was also sure that someone, somewhere had checked me out, whether it was the FBI, the State Department or the Russian Security Office that she mentioned. I certainly wouldn't be in here if any one of those groups or people thought I was going to misbehave.
Was I interested in such a thing? Obviously that would mean traveling to where she was, which probably meant Boston, though it could mean Washington, D.C. I wondered how that would work.
"I think I would like that. Do you mean in Boston?"
"Possible. But Washington is certain. Father has requested assignment to Washington Embassy. If he gets, then I go to Harvard for certain. Father has important, powerful friend on Politburo, Mikhail Andreyevich Suslov, so I think he get."
Wonderful. Her dad was connected to the top levels of the Soviet government. I had no idea who this Suslov guy was, or what that would mean. I made a mental note to stop at the library and check to see who he was. Maybe it was time to study some Russian history. As for escorting Tatyana, because I had no real interest in joining the military or working for the CIA or any other government agency, I didn't really care if being with her was written in some FBI file somewhere.
"Well, let me know what happens. Do you know when he will find out?"
"He travel to Moscow after trade negotiation. Will be successful, so I think he get as soon as he finish here. Mother and I go back to Leningrad and I finish school. Then we move to Washington."
She set her coffee cup on the table and turned to face me, presenting her face for a kiss. I set my cup down and kissed her softly on the lips. We scooted closer and kissed again. I put my hand on her arm and she broke the kiss.
"Remember limit!" she said firmly.
We kissed for twenty minutes or so, and I softly caressed her breasts while we did so. It struck me that never once had she moaned or made any kind of indication that she was excited by what we were doing. I found that really odd, but wondered if it was just her stoic demeanor.
Tatyana got up and excused herself and disappeared into the bathroom. She came out a few minutes later and came back and sat on the couch, but at talking, not kissing, distance. I was very curious as to what she was thinking. But there wasn't really a good way to ask without sounding too forward. The last thing I wanted to do was mess up what looked like a great friendship that was growing. The kissing seemed less sexual and more friendly than anything.
"I will see you tomorrow for reception? You arrive at 1730 and come meet me here to escort me to reception."
"That's fine. I'll be here then."
"Bring casual clothes for after. You have athletic clothes?"
"You mean a sweatsuit - soft, loose fitting, like for running?"
"Yes. That. Father and mother want to have late meal with us after reception in their room. Is casual, not formal, because you are now good friend. I wear something similar instead of skirt and blouse like now."
That was an interesting development. And once again I heard small warning bells, but nothing that bothered me too much. She was so proper that I didn't think anything was coming of this other than some light necking. And that certainly fit with behaving.
"Also, father may wish to drink vodka with you. Are you able to take metro home if you need to?"