The Chaperoned Affair
By Tawariell Saerwen
Author's Note:This story is an AU taking place in 1964 in New York City and during the height of the Cold War. There's going to be multiple references to contemporary history in regards to Ukraine (Soviet history/folk history), South Italy and American history. The kind of American history I'll be discussing are life experiences that were shared to me by my father who grew up in the 1950's and 1960's (may he rest in peace.) Anything that needs any explanation will have an asterisk (*) and an author's note. There really shouldn't be that many throughout the story.
The story is rated M for adult situations, language and violence.
Onward to Chapter 1!
It was late spring, 1964 at the bustling borough of Manhattan. The nations were arriving to the luxurious Tudor Hotel, just adjacent to The United Nations Headquarters, in attendance to their annual World Conference that was being hosted by America. Many of the nations arriving to the hotel carried luggage with extra clothing, just in case their conference were to last longer than usual. Tension was in the air as the nations representing the Soviet Union, including Russia himself, arrived to the hotel. The Cold War had reached its peak in the world and their presences in the United States greatly intimidated the American people, despite Russia's former Allied allegiance with America during World War Two. These nations were being accompanied by a couple of staff members from the Kremlin to give them strict ordinance on public protocol.
As the Soviet nations were standing in the lobby awaiting to be signed in and escorted to their rooms, Russia caught a quick glance of America standing across the room. His associates strictly informed him not to utter a word to him, nor to engage in any conversation with him except during their World Conference. Russia hated to be told what to do. He really wanted to visit with his former ally and to have things between them be the same again, but the Cold War instigated by their bosses prevented them from doing so. As Russia looked across to America's direction, he let out a quiet gasp when America turned his gaze and looked back to him. Both nations fidgeted for a moment, then exchanged a discreet salutation with a simple nod.
Moments later, Spain stepped inside the lobby with both Italy Brothers standing by either side of his body. His dear friend France immediately greeted him and he walked up to him. They embraced one another, and then parted so France could greet the other two nations. Romano suddenly extended his arm out to him, insisting that they shake hands rather than hug. France respected his request and they briefly shook each other's hands. Then, as he turned his gaze to Italy, he noticed how downcast he appeared.
"Veneziano! Why do you look so sad?" he asked and he embraced the disheartened nation.
Italy warmly embraced France and he looked up to him, his lovely brown eyes brimming slightly with tears. "I hate being apart from Ludwig," he choked. He was referring to Germany's absence due to his restricted status of becoming a member of the United Nations. His brother Prussia, now known to the world as The German Democratic Republic, was also barred from receiving membership in the United Nations. This was a restriction that had been enforced since 1947 when the United Nations was founded.
France kindly smiled to Italy and he squeezed his hand. "Please don't despair! You'll be reunited with him again when our meeting is settled. Hopefully, we'll come to conclusions quickly and not drag it out for a week or more like last time. This Cold War nonsense really makes things complicated."
Spain nodded in agreement and he smiled to Italy. "That's right! And if you really wanted to, you could give him a telephone call long distance so you could hear each other's voices!"
Romano suddenly scoffed and he glared to his partner in disgust. "You expect him to do that? Don't you realize how expensive* it is to call long distance?" he jeered.
"Of course I know this, Tomate! I'd be glad to pay for the bill myself on his behalf…that is if you don't mind, Veneziano – "
"Chigi! This is why you're becoming broke! You carelessly spend your money on things that isn't necessary! We're probably going to be staying here in New York for only twenty-four or forty-eight hours! Surly, my brother will have the patience to just wait on returning to that Potato Bastard's side again! Only God knows why he'd want to be back with him in the first place – "
"Roma! Quit discussing about me as if I wasn't here!" Italy suddenly interrupted and he frowned to his twin. Romano arrogantly folded his arms and he let out a grunt of disgust. Italy looked back to Spain and his frown slowly subsided as he spoke to him. "Grazie mille, Antonio, in regards to the phone call. I-I'll let you know whether or not I want to do this," he said with gratitude to his tone.
*Author's Note: Long distance phone calls were very expensive. According to my father, a ten-minute phone call from New York to Los Angeles was about $4.00. That seems like nothing to stress about, but back in the 1950's and 1960's, $4.00 is equivalent to $50.00 in today's inflation adjustment. Back in those days, the annual income of a working adult was just $3,000 or more, depending on what type of career they had. That was a fortune back then. This barely covers rent and utilities in today's world.
Meanwhile, the nations representing the Republic of the Soviet Union were about to be escorted to their assigned level where their rooms would be located. A manager held a clipboard in one hand while his other hand possessed a pencil. He gave a quick roll call for each specific nation so they would be accounted for. He quickly went down the list and came to the final country's name written on it: Ukraine.
"Ukraine…Ukraine? Where is Ukraine?" asked the hotel manager. The nations looked around to see where the absent country could be. Russia, Belarus and the Kremlin associates were especially concerned over her whereabouts. One of the associates decided to step outside to see whether or not Ukraine was there. He hurriedly rushed up to the exit and he bumped against Romano's left shoulder without realizing it.
"Hey! Watch it, asshole!" barked Romano to the anonymous man running out of the hotel.
The agent stood outside the Tudor Hotel and he desperately looked for any sign of Ukraine. Then, a few meters away he spotted the beautiful nation standing close to the curb. She was completely transfixed by her environment: the tall skyscrapers, the bellowing traffic and the fantastic Western fashions that the American women were wearing. Ukraine adored New York City. She loved coming here annually for the World Conference. Despite this being her seventeenth visitation to the United States, not once had she been able to tour the city to see the sights. She had always wanted to do this, but this was forbidden to her by her brother's associates and even by Russia himself.
The Kremlin associate hurried up to the nation's side. When he came to her, he firmly gripped her right arm and began forcefully jerking it. "Tam vy! Chto ty zdes' delayesh'? Vernites' vnutr'! My zhdem Vas!" (There you are! What are you doing out here? Get back inside! We've been waiting for you!) he angrily said to her in Russian.
Ukraine became startled by the associate's physical pull on her arm and she nervously apologized to him in her brother's language. "Mne ochen' zhal'!" (I'm sorry!)
"Vy dolzhny byt' izvinite! Kak ty smeyesh' ostanus' zdes' sami! Tvoy brat volnuyetsya za tebya – " (You should be sorry! How dare you stay out here by yourself! Your brother is worried sick about you – )
"Ya skazal, chto bespokoit'sya ! Pozhaluysta, ne rugayte menya! Ya ne rebenok!" (I said I was sorry! Please don't scold me! I'm not a child!) Ukraine insisted as she was being led back inside the Tudor Hotel. The Kremlin associate quickened his pace as they came up to the Soviet nations awaiting their return. Once at their presence, he relinquished his hold on Ukraine's arm and they both stood in front of the nations. Many of them began their trek to the elevators, followed by bellboys carrying their luggage on their behalf. Belarus shook her head in sheer annoyance over her older sister's thoughtless behaviour and she joined the other nations.
Ukraine's pale face blushed from embarrassment and she passively apologized to her brother. "Mne ochen' zhal'!" (I'm sorry!)
Russia's stern expression softened a bit as he let out a sigh. "Poydem naverkh," (Lets go upstairs) he said and he reached over and gently gripped his sister's hand. Then, they both walked together, with the Kremlin associate rushing ahead of them, to one of the numerous elevators.
Ukraine was standing by her hotel bedroom window and she dreamily looked to the overwhelming urban landscape and sighed in adoration. Then, she suddenly overheard a knock to her room's front door. She turned around and cheerfully cried out loud. "Come in! The door's unlocked!"
The door opened up and Russia peered in from behind it. Ukraine smiled to her brother and she gestured him to come inside. "Ivan! Check out my view!" she excitedly insisted. Russia smiled back to her and he walked into room, closing the door behind him. He walked across the room and came by her side. He brotherly embraced his sister and gave her a quick peck on her cheek.
"Ivan, I wish to apologize again for my truancy downstairs at the lobby," Ukraine softly murmured, feeling rather bad for her misbehavior.
"Don't worry about it," answered Russia and he reached down to squeeze his sister's hand. "My dear sister, look at you! You're gleaming with joy!" he commented as he observed Ukraine's blissful appearance.
"It's this city that makes me feel this way! I just love New York!" she exclaimed. They both stared out to the city and Ukraine extended her arm outward, pointing to a specific area to the landscape. "See that long, green rectangle from afar? Right over there! That's Central Park!"
"I can see that!" Russia said as he looked to its direction, bringing his right hand over his eyes to shade them from the bright sunlight.
"I've always wanted to go there! It's so beautiful! Perhaps…if it's possible…you and I can visit it together after the conference ends. Wouldn't that be wonderful?" she asked, hinting greatly with her smile on how much she wanted to do this.
Russia let out a sigh and he sympathetically looked to her. "I had a feeling you'd say something like this. You always put this pressure on me every year. You already know what I'm about to say – "
"Oh, c'mon, Ivan! Why must you be so stubborn?" Ukraine cried, interrupting her brother's sentence. "How could you not have any interest in wanting to tour the city? It doesn't make any sense! It would be like visiting Las Vegas and never bothering to gamble at a casino or to see a show!"
"Katyusha, you know quite well why we can't tour the city on our own. It's too dangerous! We're not exactly welcomed guests in this country. There could be a confrontation. I'm just trying to protect you from harm's way, that's all."
Ukraine huffed and she stepped away from her brother. "I don't need your protection! I'm capable of protecting myself! Why must you shield me like I'm a defenseless child? Remember that I am older than you and I'm the one who raised you up – "
"And remember that I'm the head of the family and I have the final word*. You're not going to tour the city. I forbid it!" Russia sternly said, his content expression turning serious.
Ukraine folded her arms and she frowned to her overprotective brother. "I don't want to be cooped up inside the hotel yet again like I've done so every single year! I want to be out there and to see all the wonderful sights! It wouldn't be like I'd be wandering around by myself; I'd join a tour group and be amongst other people! We'd be enjoying the city together! Please, Ivan!"
"Kat – "
"Oh, c'mon, Ivan!"
"Stop it! Quit your whining!" Russia suddenly barked, causing Ukraine to be startled. "I can't let you do this! I've already told you why I can't! It'll go against protocol and…and I can't bear to let anything bad happen to you. Please try to understand, my dear sister…I'm only trying to look over your well-being."
Ukraine's beautiful blue eyes began to brim up with tears. She stubbornly stepped away from her brother and headed to her bed where her suitcase was lying. She stood with her back facing Russia as she opened her suitcase and took out a few articles of clothing. "I…I need to unpack. Do you mind?" she choked.
Russia's expression softened when he listened to his sister's emotional voice. He knew that she was about to cry. He felt rather bad for making Ukraine feel this way and he walked up to her. "Katyusha," he mumbled as he reached over to touch his sister's shoulder, "I'm sorry for raising my voice to you – "
"N-Nevermind that. I-I'll see you later, okay?" Ukraine softly cried as a single tear escaped from the corner of her eye.
Russia brought his arm away from his sister and he nodded. "Alright…hey, I think we'll be eating dinner in about an hour. Will you be joining us downstairs?"
"I-I don't know. I'm not really hungry."
"Alright then…I'll leave you alone…" Russia solemnly uttered and he stepped away from Ukraine's presence. When he walked out of his sister's room and closed her door, he stood in silence in the empty hallway, waiting to listen to Ukraine's emotional reaction to his harshness. Right on queue, he could hear his sister's gentle weeping through the hotel door. Suddenly, a loud thump was heard inside the room; he presumed that she had tossed her suitcase onto the floor as an expression of her frustration over their situation.
Russia felt terrible for his sister. This was not the first time she had expressed grief in regards to touring New York City. But this time, something was different for him. He was beginning to feel remorse on her behalf and, shockingly for him, a change of heart. All he cared about was his sister's happiness. Ukraine had been adamant about touring the city for years and now Russia was concluding that she deserved that right to do so after all.
But she could not tour the city alone, nor could he fathom the idea of having Ukraine joining a tour group amongst strangers. 'Perhaps one of our peers can chaperone her around the city…somebody who knows the city like the back of their hand. But who could that be?' thought Russia. As his mind buzzed on whom to question about their knowledge of the great metropolis, Russia began his walk down the hallway toward his own room which was only three doors down from his sister's. He pulled out his key, unlocked his door and stepped inside.
*Author's Note: Both Russia and Ukraine are traditionally patriarch societies. Men have more of an authority in their countries than women do. It's only been recent that their societies have begun being challenged by newly formed feminist groups such as FEMEN from Ukraine and the punk band Pussy Riot in Russia. Both countries are heavily influenced by the presence of the Christian Orthodox Church and any involvement with these two groups threatens excommunication from the church. Ironically, FEMEN and Pussy Riot have tremendous support in the West, but little to no support in their own countries.
As for feminism in the Soviet Union, it didn't really exist. Women received equal status with men under Communism, and yet they were still encouraged to hold traditional roles in their lives (being a wife and mother). Women weren't encouraged to be involved in government affairs and although they were able to vote, voting in general was pointless because the government was corrupt. The only difference between Soviet women and American women was that Soviet women, both single and married, were allowed to have a job and control their earned assets. In the 1950's through the mid 1970's, American women were discouraged from working unless they were single. Married women who held jobs were shunned by the community and were seen as emasculating their husbands – it was their husband's sole duty to be the breadwinner in the family. If a married woman became pregnant, her employer immediately fired her.
American women were not allowed to open bank accounts unless they received written permission from a male relative or their husband. Married women were forbidden to have their own credit until 1975 when the Equal Credit Opportunity Act was ratified. Also, believe it or not, state governments allowed individual counties to pass their own legislation in regards to women. My father grew up in a small county in Ohio and up until the 1980's, it was illegal for women to drive automobiles. If they needed to go somewhere, either their husband or a male relative would escort them.