Coming out of our room after a few hours of…bonding.We’d showered and changed.We headed to the back staircase as Helga came from down the hall fixing a button on her sleeve she was wearing.I smiled at her.She had really changed.Don’t misunderstand, she was still Helga, beautiful, but…she was taking time to…look more attractive...to Olek. She was concentrating more on her hair and wore make up!She looked up and instantly smiled at us.She was about to greet us, but stopped.“Okay, do I use the titles…”
“No!”I said quickly stopping her as we all stopped in the hall.“Please don’t.”
Peter chuckled hugging me to him from behind.“It is a sore spot with Eric.”He said in hushed voice to her like it was a secret.
“They are hard to keep up with! The proper one and when…I was demoting Olek for weeks!”I said simply.“You’re Majesty versus Your Highness…”
I felt Peter put his hand on my head and shake it lightly.“And yet, your head’s still on your shoulders.”He brought me in kissing me on my neck from behind where I could have lost my head at one time…in the past of course.“Think, considering you just came from the bedroom Olek is sharing with you…Peter and Eric would be preferable.”
“And Olek’s the king!”I pointed out.“You’re on a first named basis with him.So, us, too!”
She nodded with a laugh.“Yes, I struggled with that one, too.”She shook her head.“We had really just met and you came here to continue with school and I wasn’t sure.”
“No protocols with me.”I said smiling.“I had to make it a royal command at the palace in Stryia.No, Lordships or anything.”
“I take it things are working well with you and my brother?”Peter said hopefully.
She smiled at that nodding and a feeling or memory.“He’s an amazing man.”She put her hand on my arm.“It took a while to separate Olek from his position as king.You’re telling me to be with Olek and not the king was pretty…insightful.It helped a lot.”
I nodded.“He is an amazing man.One I care a lot about and who I want happy.I want you happy, as well.”
Helga smiled nodding.“I am.”She said as we started down the stairs.“Now, Peter’s mother…”
Peter laughed at hearing that.“Olek himself couldn’t call her anything but Your Majesty or Queen Alla for years after she married Dad.Even when he was crowned king he couldn’t call her anything else.”
“I will never call her Alla.”I said firmly.“I am marrying her son, so…Mom is fine for me.”
We entered the kitchen area where I smiled at what I saw.Mom, Queen Alla, was talking with my grandma.Boris was speaking with the others that were helping to get dinner together.Olek and Yuri were standing, but there speaking together about…whatever.They were all my family.The sense I got was…I was home.I always felt at home with Peter.This was just…so much more.Even Helga was doing well and I didn’t doubt she would feel that way soon, too.I smiled as Olek saw her and gave her a smile he didn’t anyone else.She meant something to him.Were they in love?The beginnings of love, that was certain.He stopped her and gave her a kiss that was pretty nice, unashamed and heartfelt, which she returned.Stopping his conversation which told her she was more important to him than whatever business he and Yuri were discussing.
“You’re doing it again.”Peter said to my ear, but looked where I was looking.
I looked at him and chuckled.“I know.”I waved at them.“This is nice.”
He pulled me in a hug.“It is pretty nice with the family here.I know you.I can read you.I knew what you were thinking.”
“That’s what partners in life do.That’s what you and I are.”
Events were again calming to some kind of normalcy.Grandmother went back to Asheville, but promised to keep me up to what she was doing.We even arranged for her to link up and call us on the computer so we could see each other.She was closing down the school she thought, or sell it to one of the other women that helped her if they wanted it.Her plans were to find a place warm, but wasn’t looking to move to Florida like many her age did.Olek, Helga, and Mom were also going back.
On our last night, Peter put his fork down and faced our mother.“Okay, Mom.I’ve been patient, but when are you telling us about…this mystery him.”He grinned at his mother.“I’d like to meet this man.He means something to you.”He shrugged.“I’m curious.”He said helplessly.
She nodded and smiled.“You’ll find out New Year’s.”She said.“I invited him to the palace to bring in the New Year.His name is Mario Basso.He’s a very successful business man.”She smiled.“He’s fifty-seven, a widow and has two adult children with his wife.He’s a good man.”
I smiled.“He’d have to be if he attracted you.”
She nodded, but looked at Peter little uncertain.“I kept him to myself a while because issues with me as well as you, Peter.I was having guilt.”She shrugged.“This…is different.”She tried to explain.“I loved your father very much.I miss him every day.That was my issue.”She chuckled.“He was having those issues, too.He loved his wife.Just like Olek the first is gone, his wife is gone.We both felt we were cheating.We had to deal with that.We talked about it and there was you, Peter.I was uncomfortable telling you for the same reason.I didn’t want you to ever think I was replacing your father with someone else.”
Peter was shaking his head to deny it, but realized he had felt that and his expression softened.“I understand.”
Mom nodded.“He’ll be arriving two days before New Year’s Eve.”She said.“He’ll be staying with me.”She said pointedly.
Peter nodded and shrugged.“Well, Eric stays with me.That’s just what we do.”But I heard his tone.He was saying more to himself to accept it.“Naturally, he would.”He then grinned at Mom.“Of course, he knows he’ll be facing the gauntlet of Ivanov men.”
She laughed.“Of course, he does.”
I patted Peter’s hand.“That tells a lot.She means enough to him to face you, Peter!”
“And you!”Peter said mockingly indignant.“You are protective of everyone, me, Helga, Mom, Grandmother and Olek!”
“Don’t forget Boris and Yuri.”I said nodding.
“How could I forget them?Them, too.”
After they left, I was…well, it was a big house!I missed the many people.Then we resumed our schedules.
There were more clips sent from Drew.I listened to Milo tell the things about what happened, things I already knew about.It was just more personal hearing him talk about it.I felt we were getting to know him.One afternoon, I saw more clips.This one group of clips caught my attention.Bren Shultz’s sessions.
“Peter!”I called out a little urgently.
Hearing the toilet flush.“What?”He called back quickly.
Me, being who I am, I slipped into the wiseass mode.“Oh, nothing, I just felt like calling your name.”I said mockingly sour.“The idea of come here, is usually inferred when I do that.”I said the obvious.
He came in with a sardonic look.“You just try to bother me, don’t you?”
“It’s goal in life now.”I smiled.“I’d say from the look on your face, I do a good job.”I waved at the computer.“There is a clip that’s Bren’s!”
“Oooh!”He was instantly in motion as he came over and planted himself in the chair again with me.“Let’s hear it.”
“That’s why I called you.” I grinned.“Still bothered by me?”
Peter grinned.“You always know how to do it.No one does a better job.I even like it.”He said kissing me as he rubbed his forehead against mine and then waved at the computer.“Let’s hear it!”
I clicked on the first clip file.
“This is Bren Schultz.”The same woman that was working with Milo said.She again gave the date and time.This was shortly after Bren and Milo had been married a few years.1954.They arrived in Makarovia in the winter 1938.They were in their thirties.The recording was overlaid with English translation.“Are you alright, Bren?”She asked.
I looked at Peter.“How do I…” I looked at the screen and saw the icon that would turn the audio on and off.“I’ll turn it back on when they start speaking German.”
“I’m alright.”A voice sounded softly.“I don’t understand.This can’t undo what happened.”It was good voice…actually a little lower than Milo’s voice.What it didn’t have was confidence.He wasn’t forceful or bold.He sound afraid if he would say something that would offend.After what happened, it was a miracle he was even alive.
“No, it won’t.”The woman said sympathetically.“Milo came here and began telling what happened to the two of you.In order to get past that, it is important you talk about it and deal with it.”
“I don’t want to remember.”Bren said as his voice shook in a little terror.“I’ve tried so hard to forget what happened.I don’t see how talking will help.”
“Milo said you have these…periods…you go into a state…like a fugue state where you disconnect from the world.He’s very worried about you.”
“He always worries about me.”He chuckled sadly.“I do have these periods, but I can’t help it.”Bren said.“I just start remembering and…” he stopped, “but Milo can bring me out of them.”
“Of course, he can.”She said as I heard the smile in her voice.“He’s your husband.He loves you, you know that, and you love him.”
I heard the chuckle, but his time it was assertive.“Yes, he does.He’s saved my life many times.”
“As I understand from what he’s told me.”She said pleasantly.“And he’s right out in there if you need him.Why don’t we start with something pleasant?Tell me about the first time you met Milo.Remember, I want you to use the language you’re used to have clear record.Speak in German.”
I clicked the audio for the translation.
“Milo lived a few streets from me.I’d see him occasionally, we were in the same grade at school, but never assigned to the same class the school educated many from that part of Berlin, so we had three classrooms that were the same grade.”As Bren spoke of Milo, the softer hesitant speech became more assertive, speeding up and bolder.“He always strikes me as…sunlight.Not just because of his blonde hair, but his whole personality is bright, cheerful and so positive.I wanted many times to speak to him, but…I saw most every day.The day we became friends.There was a rise in the political group.Those Nazis.”He paused as he took a deep breath.
“It’s okay.”She said to Bren.“Do I need to get Milo?”
“No.”He said softer.“This is about Milo.”He said and took a breath and went on.“He was popular with quite a few people.However, when I saw this group…they were part of the new Youth Program for the Nazis Party.My heart sank.I didn’t want him to join them, but he was blonde, good looking and athletic, bold.If he joined them, I knew any friendship would probably not happen.He was popular enough and I’d never get him to be friends with me.I wasn’t like him.I wasn’t popular or even attracting people to want to be friends.Then I watched as he was walking away from them…he told them no?I watched as the three guys and the single girl got…pushy and with him…I don’t know how I did it.He said no!How is say no so hard to understand?Was shoving and insulting him going to make him say yes?What sort of friendship is that?Without my head even telling me to I told them to stop!My heart was pounding.I knew I was in deep trouble.I couldn’t understand it, there were other people there…supposedly his friends…they didn’t speak up.I did.One of those four began questioning me about my heritage and whether, because of my dark hair if I were Jewish!I simply said there were many Jews with blonde hair and said it didn’t matter.It was stupid to assume things not in evidence.Then Milo came over to stand between these…future thugs and me.I spoke up to protect him!Now he was protecting me?”He chuckled.“Well, he tried to…the guys started swinging and I ended up getting the punch in the eye.”He chuckled again.“My mother was so upset because I fought, but my father was actually proud of me.Milo and I hung out that day as friends.He had come home with me and told my parents I’d gotten the black eye protecting him.That’s when my father started smiling and said; To protect someone, you’re willing to take a punch.That’s something to be proud of.Then he asked.Did we win?Mom never liked me to fight, but she was proud, too.What really surprised me was Milo!The next day, I came in the school yard as always.He was with some other friends and came to me!He was waiting on me, he sought me out!Every day after that he would come over to me and just hang around, suggest things we could do and I realized…he wanted me as a friend.I had a few I called friends, but he was like nothing I’d ever been friends with.I even asked him about that.He looked at me and said: That’s what people do when they’re friends.They do things together.We are friends, right?From that moment on, not hardly a single day passed without Milo there with me.I love him.Milo was smart.He’d take us to exhibits at the museum, the art gallery or just to the parks and feed the ducks!We had a great time.We liked spending time together.He knew all this science stuff and was trying to decide whether he should be a doctor or scientist.I told him he could be both.It was that love of science that saved my life after…” that’s when he stopped…there was a grunt and then...
“Bren?”The doctor said.“Bren, it’s okay.”She said to him more urgently.
The sound of footsteps and the opening of a door.
“Milo, he’s doing it again.”She said.
The sound of rapid footsteps and then Milo’s voice as he sat with Bren.“It’s okay, baby.It’s okay.”He said soothingly, but the voice was somewhat subdued as it was probably right against Bren’s head and into his ear.I could see Milo wrapping his arms around Bren and rocking, most likely.You could hear little kisses he gave Bren as he continued.“It’s okay.It’s over.Those bad people aren’t here.I love you, Bren.I’m here.Come back to me.”
“We were talking about how you met, about how he thought you were smart and liked science and then he was telling me how you used it to save him after…and then he just went here.”The doctor explained frustrated.
Milo continued to talk to Bren.“It’s okay.I’ll protect you.No one’s going to hurt you.I won’t let them.I love you, Bren.”The sounds of his soothing voice and the continued light kisses and the sound of something rubbing of fabric.Milo was rubbing Bren’s back probably.“Come on, you can do it.Its okay, Bren.I love you.Come back to me, Bren.”
Then we heard someone stirring as he was coming out of that state, then the sobbing began as Bren was coming out of it more and he was hugging Milo more.“I can’t do this, Milo.”He cried.“It’s too hard!”
“Then you won’t.”Milo said simply, we could hear another kiss, but this one was more than a simple kiss.“If it’s too much, you don’t have to.”
“Then he’ll be this way for the rest of his life.”The doctor said simply with a sigh.“I wish there were medications to take this away, but there isn’t.Bren, you have to deal with this.Milo loves you.You love Milo.He even promised to protect you just a few seconds ago.He won’t have to, if you deal with this.”She sat down, you know the sound of a woman smoothing her skirt to sit and not wrinkle the skirt of dress.“I can’t understand what the pain is you’re feeling.I won’t even know it all if you don’t talk about it.If you do talk about it…things for you and Milo will get better.You depend on each other so much and I don’t want that to stop, but depend on each other for some other reason.You’re marriage is legal here in Makarovia.You two are married! I don’t care what paper you have, you are married.This was accepted by everyone here.The king knows you're married and even welcomed you both. What happened was horrible, but you must voice it.Get it out.Your very good marriage will get even better.I promise you.”
“Let’s go home.”Milo said softly to Bren.“It’s okay.If you want to do this, fine.If you don’t, fine.I want you happy.You’re more important to me than anything.What happened is continuing to make you unhappy. That’s what I want to help with. I’m not going away.I am your husband.Whatever you decide.I will be with you.”Bren made a sound that Milo understood. “We’ll go home.Besides, it’s your turn to cook.”Then Milo’s humor came out.“If you don’t feel like cooking, I can always make my famous Rouladen.”(German Skirt Steak Rolls.For those that wondered.)
“You don’t put enough horseradish in your Rouladen!”Bren said irritated.He had no problem speaking to Milo.He sounded…normal.“I don’t know if we have beef anyway.We were having Chicken Plov.(Makarovian-Ukrainian Chicken and Rice Pilaf)I have that ready to cook.”
“There he is.”Milo said happily with the smile in his voice.“There’s my Bren.Whatever you say.I love you, Bren.”
The sound of them coming closer.“I love you, Milo.I know you worry.I don’t want to make you worry.”
“I’m fine, Bren.”Milo said.“It’s up to you if you come back.I’ll be here beside you the whole way.”His voice was louder, so he must have turned to the doctor.“I’ll be back.We’ll let you know about Bren.”He said and they must have gone home.The next voice was the doctor who the time and date again and stopped the recording.
I sat back in the chair rubbing Peter’s back.“Wow.”
Peter sat back, too, bringing his arm around me squeezing me closer, as if we weren’t already close in the chair as it was.“Yes.Wow.That microphone picked up everything.”
“Drew said they’d clean it up.”I said simply.“The sounds were there, but…this was a whole session with this doctor.I need to find out who she was.She’s good.”I brought my hand up his chest to hold him better.“I think we are just fine.”
“We are fine.”Peter said.“Why do you say that?”
“Milo and Bren were together a long time.They knew each other so well.Milo knew what he needed to do to get Bren out of that state, but also knew how to bother Bren enough to get him back to himself. Bren trusted Milo.Just like I do with you.”
Peter grinned.“I don’t bother you.”
“Sure you do!”I brought him in to kiss him.“You do it all the time and you know you’re doing it.You bother me when you want sex and don’t have to say a word!You bother me when we’re studying and you just…do it to bother me!Looks from you at the table no one else knows what’s going on in your mind!Those little things tell me you love me and I don’t ever want you to stop.”
“I won’t.”Peter chuckled.
“I’m glad you let me in to get to know you.I love you, Peter.”
Peter smiled kissing me tenderly adding pressure slowly.“I know you do.I love you.”
This was written with Tinytoes in mind. Don't forget this, Tinytoes.