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Corrientes

Elder Statesman
Joined
Jul 17, 2010
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Bucharest
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Callao
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Ovi
Prologue
Gonzaga, September 10th, 2021


Romina Bertrani, a woman in her early 30s, with dark eyes, and light brown hair, long enough to wear it down on her back tied on a tail, with a fringe covering her forehead. She stood heartbroken on the pavement in the historic center of Gonzaga as she saw her life's work just locked and closed off. She always dreamed of having a restaurant. In time, it evolved into becoming a music club. A place where the up and coming artists of Gonzaga were coming to sing live, and where even local recording studios came in with scouts to discover new talents. She was proud of what she achieved, but in the summer of 2021, everything started to unravel. Her husband, a Csengian, left her for an 19 year old student in Kispest, something that made her feel heartbroken, old and unwanted, but she quickly went over the heartbreak when the disappointment turned into anger towards him. Then, President Novak's policy of discrimination against non-Csengians started to be felt, and there were even reports of attacks against the Zarans in Kispest and Becs-Altstadt. Everything came to a boiling point where there was a revolution in Kispest which proclaimed a Socialist Republic, something that brought the end to the Pannonia she knew.

At that time, separatists proclaimed the Bourdignie Confederation and the the Eugenian Republic. She hoped that this would be the end of the Pannonian Crisis, but she was quick to discover it was only the beginning. Csengia turned into a reactionary fascist absolutist monarchy and was eyeing Eugenia too. People cared more of using the money they had to buy supplies for an imminent war or to get out the country, and when the Congress, which administered the Eugenian Republic as a directorial republic ordered a curfew in the capital, she saw her business die. Everything else that she held dear, just died. The time came for her to think if she wanted to still remain there, in Gonzaga, where she left that there was nothing left and a war was incoming, or if she wanted to escape, like tens of thousands of others. One last look inside her establishment, and then a gaze towards the paper that was stuck on the door, saying "Chiuso per il momento" (Closed at the moment). She could feel tears forming up, but she wiped them with her hand. She felt too exhausted after this whole monstrous summer to cry even more.

Romina took her phone and called for a taxi to take her home. She decided on something, it was clear that there is nothing left for her in Gonzaga and there was no reason for her to stay. Not even her parents, who moved to her mother's sister in Fehrbellin, in Rheinbund when the whole disollution of Pannonia took place. When the taxi came, she gave her the address and then phoned up her father.
"Hey. You were right, I really need to leave," she said. "Yeah, I'll try and see if there's a train towards Rheinbund," she continued. The taxi driver listened to the conversation and when the finished the call, he turned towards her. "Excuse me, but regarding the idea to leave by train. I wouldn't recommend it," he said. "I cousin of mine tried to take a train from Gonzaga to Fehrbellin, and it was supposed to not have any stops at all in Western Zara or Csengia, but once it left the Eugenian Republic, Csengians stopped the train and arrested everyone having an Eugenian ID, some for being supposedly insurectionists, others for supposedly illegal crossing of the border," he said and that worried Romina. "How else could one leave the country?" she asked. "By plane is now the only safe way. It would be expensive though, but western nations like Natal said they would be sending planes and aid refugees," the taxi driver said.

She arrived home and started packing. She tried to check the websites of the airlines to see if any ticket that won't cost a huge wealth still exists, but she remembered that since the independence of Eugenia, the old Pannonian telecom companies were taken over by Csengia, and they literally blocked the Zarans and you needed VPNs to surf the web. But even so, she was sure she wanted to leave, so rather than lose time with VPNs. She packed what she saw an necessary, and then got to the airport on a taxi.

On the streets, she could saw masses of protesters, and at points, even tanks and security forces. Some were wearing banners calling for a socialist revolution, everything making her believe that it was a folly to regret leaving and that there is nothing left for her in Gonzaga. She arrived at the airport, where there was a huge crowd, clearly many sharing the same escape plans like her.

She went into the terminal and looked at the schedule, where there were many cancelled flights from Radilan Airlines, Dalmatian Air, Aerolinas de Palma, Pelasgian Airways, Cantas and even an interflug. There were 3 special charter flights from Cedar Airlines, two Rhein Eagle flights and an Aeroeste one still scheduled to arrive. The Cedar flights are the special refugee ones from Natal, and they're supposed to arrive in about 3 hours. In an hour a Rhein Eagle flight was leaving for Fehrbellin, the next one would leave in five hours for the same destination, while the Aeroeste flight was leaving for Callao, the capital of Corrientes in three hours.

Romina went to the Rhein Eagle booth, and was happy when she managed to get her hands on a very last minute ticket to Fehrbellin, even if she paid nearly 1,000 EM for it. She went past the security check and then sat herself down in the waiting room, when her attention was caught by the ruckus forming by the big windows overlooking the tarmac. She went there to see what's happening, and she could see a huge mob on the tarmac, with tanks and soldiers trying to block it, and a small governmental airplane landed and taxied right in front of the mob. She could barely see the whole scene, but could observe a man in white coming out of the plane, wearing a very pompous uniform and everyone around her was awed. Someone near her just muttered "El Presidente...". She too was quite awed by the show and a part of her hoped that this would mean that Eugenia is saved. She could see someone in another very pompous uniform, this time Zaran, going to meet him and then El Presidente waved towards the mob. The Josefino president started a speech in which he called the Zarans an oppressed people and talked about how great they were and how they are victims of some form of imperialistic conspiracy, and she could see the people going crazy about it, but her attention was caught by an announcement, a female voice stating that the Rhein Eagle flight to Fehrbellin has been cancelled as the plan didn't receive permission to land on the airport, because of the recent events. She could not but curse the Josefino president for this.

Romina went to the Rhein Eagle booth again, and was greeted by another woman working there. "Hi, regarding the cancelled flight, what can be done?" Romina asked. The woman only shook her head. "Sadly nothing. The surprise visit of president San Jose made company declare the airport an area too sensitive, as they fear a potential Csengian reaction, so they prefer to not have planes around," she said. "So... not even the 2nd flight is set to arrive?" Romina asked. "Sadly not. The flights will return only the on Monday, after the weekend," the woman said apologizing. Romina cursed and then asked for her money back, but of course it was a complicated process that could last quite some time and by the time she completed the form and was given her luggage back, she accepted the idea that she just wasted a thousand euromarks. She then turned again to the woman working on the Rhein Eagle booth. "Could you give any advice what I could do?" Romina asked, but the woman shrugged. "Most of the people here wait for the refugee chartered flights. The airport put only the Natalian ones there, but there are some going to Pelasgia, others to Radilo, and many to San Jose or Gran Occidentia, but to be honest, I wouldn't recommend them," she said. "Why not?" Romina asked, "They will be filled with people. The security said they expect nearly 10,000 people to come to the airport in search of refuge, considering the latest developments," the woman said. "The latest developments?" Romina asked dumbfounded. "Yeah, down on the tarmac was president Jose Constanza, and he met with General Leone. I received some calls and my partner told me to remain at the airport as he said that the army is on the march towards the governmental palace. They said a coup is ongoing and they will proclaim a socialist republic," she said. Romina started panicking and sweating. "Isn't there any other way at all to leave?" she asked desperately. "Try Aeroeste, they have a flight on the tarmac, and are preparing to leave for Callao," she said. "Callao? To Corrientes? The other side of the world?" Romina asked, but the woman shrugged. "At least you're far away from here," the woman said.

Romina left and tried to phone her parents in Rheinbund but the no phones were working, so she decided that something must be done, because if not with this new coup, everything will go to hell and this might literally be the only way of leaving. Romina quickly crossed the huge waiting area, trying to find a representative of Aereste, because she knew that if she goes out to the check-in booth, the huge mobs outside will make it impossible for her to return or cross the security checks. She randomly found the gate the plane was supposed to leave from and went there. A man was there, wearing the green jacket over the white shirt and a golden tie, which made her think of the Correntine flag. She went to him and explained what happened. The man checked the system: "You're actually extremely lucky. There are actually 5 more empty seats that weren't reserved. Currently they're at 800EM," he said. A woman wearing the same uniform came towards them. Romina thought of it, thinking that she just lost 1000 EM to the Rheinbunders. Then an announcement came, stating that because of security reasons, no more people are allowed to cross the security checkpoints for the time being. This made it clear for it, it's literally the the only way out. She thought of her knowledge of Josefino, which wasn't the best, but she studied it for 4 years in high school, and Tiburan languages like Zaran, Radilan and Josefino were quite similar, so she could learn it easily. People started coming towards the desk and they clearly had the same ideas like her, so if she doesn't think fast, she'll lose it. She took her credit card out and paid the ticket to Callao.

"What about the luggage?" the woman wearing the green uniform said and Romina looked at it. "It's a bit big but we'll still put it into the hold, as there's no more space," he said. Romina took her ticket, gave them the luggage and sat herself on a chair, waiting to get embarked. People started coming to the desk. The first four bought tickets too, but the rest nearly started a riot, and security had to be called. An announcement was then heard that the Aeroeste flight to Callao will be delayed by an hour. Romina started panicking, but she could hear the two employees talk that it's only because the runway is occupied by the Josefino governmental plane. When the time has finally come for embarkment, a Correntine border official came and checked passports too, and they had their passport stamped with a special seal which stated "Emergency refugee status". The heard some people around her stating that this will give them a refugee visa in Corrientes, and because of the nation's lex immigration system, it meant the right to permanent residence was secured. This was one of Romina's fears, that she would be forced to return, when things calm down, but she wondered if things do calm down, considering a coup is underway and Csengia dreams of conquering Eugenia.

On the plane, she was happy she had a window seat, but she was still stressed that they might be forced to disembark if the flight is cancelled, but when it started moving and she could hear the captain on the audio system say "Cabin crew, prepare for takeoff, " she managed to relax. The plane started humming as the engines went into full throttle and she could see Gonzanga's lights getting farther and farther away as the plane gained altitude. Little did she knew that this truly was the last flight out of Gonzaga for the next months and nearly 6 months later things would calm down, but by then, Zara had become a Duchy within the Kingdom of Csengia.
 

Corrientes

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Bucharest
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Callao, 8 hours later

Romina never thought that she was that exhausted until she finally closed her eyes when the plane was above Rheinbund. She woke up for a quick snack and then fell again asleep. It was the announcement of the captain that woke her up. "Dear passengers, we are now preparing to land at the Pablo Herrera Airport in Callao. Please make sure that your belts are fastened and secured." She was startled by it but woke up and looked outside the window, to see in the early hours of the morning, the darkness still engulfing the Thaumantic Ocean, but the lights of the city acting like a beacon, first faraway, but then, growing more and more that she could see them expanding unto the horizon, from time to time interrupted by hills.

The plane landed safely and taxied towards the terminal. "Dear passengers, if we could have your attention. Pannonian citizens who given the emergency refugee status, will have to fill an immigration form before leaving the plane. Our crew will come through the cabin with the forms and please signal to receive one and fill it out, so you can present it to the customs so you can enter Corrientes," an announcement on the tannoy came out. The cabin crew went threw the plane and gave around half the passenger the forms. Romina took one and was given a pen to complete it. The form was about her address and life and family members in Zara, if they still lived in Zara or not, about her financial status and how much money she brought with her, and what she worked for before and why did she leave Zara and why would she feel that she was in danger in the country. She completed it and then exited the plane. Passengers started exiting the plane, and Romina was between them. When she exited the plane, the hot humid air hit her, even if it was very early in the morning.

She entered the customs area and sat on the special line for Pannonian refugees. It clearly was the very slow one, because by the time her turn came, two more flights arrived and they were all processed. She ended up to the front and gave the woman behind the booth her ID, her passport and the form. The woman on the other side, smiled towards her in a pitiful way from time to time as she took the documents and went through them. After a few signatures, the looked towards Romina, checking the photo of her from the one on her passport and ID. "Thank you very much, everything is fine at the moment, if you will go to past my booth, you will be taken for a short interview by one of my colleagues," she said in a clear Radilan, which surprised Romina. She wasn't expecting to hear it on the other side of the world. "How good is your Engellexic?" the border guard asked, and Romina was startled, being away with her thought, but she managed to mumble something about it being decent. "Good, because we have very little agents speaking Radilan, so unless your Josefino is good, Engellexic would be the language of the interview," she continued saying after which she gave Romina her files.

Romina left her booth, passing through a small corridor and was received by a man in a dark green uniform, who greeter her and invited her in a private office. The man helped her take a seat at a desk, and it surprised her how nice he was acting. She was stressed that there might be chances that she might fail the interview and it might mean a flight back; only the though of that made her sweat. The man took her files and looked through them, spending most of the time on the immigration form.

"Good morning, my name is Andres Pedro Reyes del Pozo, I am a commissar of the Federal Police Service, the Border Guards Division. We are here for the refugee status interview. It is my duty to state that the interview is all recorded video and audio, is that okay for you?" The man said in a robotic way. Romina nodded at first, but then agreed to it. "Would you like to go through this interview in Josefino or in Engellexic?" he asked. Romina was stressed out, only now did she process the fact that the man was speaking Josefino and she was understanding all of it, so it gave her courage. "Josefino, I think I am fine with Josefino," she said. The man nodded. "Good, thank you. We may begin now," he said. She looked at him. He was a young man, probably around 25, tall, but very thin and lanky. He barely had a few beard hairs here and there on his chin and moustache who were showing up and his uniform felt like it was too small for him.

"Can you please tell me your full name, current time and date, where did you flew from and on what flight?" he asked. Romina looked around and saw a clock on the wall. "My name is Romina Bertrani, it is 4:55 AM, on the 11th of September 2021, I flew in from Gonzaga on the Aeroeste flight no.405," she said in a robotic way, trying to mimic the tone the policeman used. Only then she saw a camera sitting right in front of her, to the left of the policeman and was surprised that she didn't observe it before. The man smiled towards her. "You can relax," he said.

"What can you tell me about your family and your life in Gonzaga?" he asked, looking through the immigration form. "I lived until I was 26 with my parents and siblings in a villa in the outskirts of Gonzaga. Nothing too fancy, but we were quite well off. I have an older brother who first moved out, leaving to study medicine in Becs Altstadt. I remained as I started studying for a BA in Music in Gonzaga, followed by a Masters in Business Administration and Management. I have a younger sister who left for Radilo and is now working as a museologist there. My father had a car repair shop and my mother in retired, and before that she worked for the Ministry of Finances, in Gonzaga," I started saying. She wasn't sure where he wanted to go with this or how much details she should give. "How did the dissolution of Pannonia affect the you and your family?" he asked.


"Extremely," she said with a flat voice, trying not to get emotional, but when she saw that he shifted on his chair anxiously, she continued. "My brother in Becs Altstadt was put on a list by Bajoran nationalists as a separatist because he participated as a student in a series of meetings calling for the federalization of Pannonia. My mom was visited by the police, who wanted to make sure that at an incoming trial which would accuse separatist politicians of corruption and treason, she would say as a witness that she knew there were wrongdoings at the local headquarters of the Ministry of Finances, while my own business, a live music club was targeted by vandalism, with anti-Zaran messages in graffiti, as I was known to support Tiburan speaking and singing artists," she said, feeling tears starting to form in her eyes. She tried to numb herself down with everything she and her family worked for collapsing around them, but revisiting everything made her emotional, but she then shook it off. "What did your parents and brother do?" he asked.

"My parents left for Rheinbund even from the start, wishing to be away from anything. My mother has a sister in Fehrbellin and she managed to get some weird family reunion special visa which gave her and my dad the right to move there even before refugee status for Zarans was a thing. My brother did nothing of the sorts. He was always much more feisty and joined the nationalist circles in Bourdignie. I for one remained in Gonzaga for a while," she said. "Why is that?" he asked.

"I thought things might calm down. They might return to normal. I was in a process of divorcing my husband and I was really so concentrated in fighting to keep my establishment, that for me, it felt the collapse of Pannonia was happening on the other side of the world. Only when the divorce was done I actually observe that all that was for nothing, as by that time, Pannonia stopped existing and was replaced by Pojazerna, Csengia, Bourdignie and Eugenia. With Csengians knocking on our door, the Eugenian authorities instituted a curfew which restricted the leisure facilities so my music club was literally closed off, so I woke up in the 11th hour, observing I wasted on nothing my spring and summer, only to see that around me the world was going to hell," she said, this time more composed, but when she made eye contact with the policeman, she saw that he felt less... robotic. "I'm sorry to hear that," he said. "So to revise, your family was targetted for their activities, especially mother and brother, while your property was vandalized with anti-Zaran messages, is that right?" he asked and Romina nodded, and then agreed loudly so it could be heard on camera. "So it is clear for you that in case of your return to Zara, you would be a target, right?" he asked again and Romina agreed.

He looked around some more within her form. "You speak good Josefino for a Zaran. Nearly all I went through with have chosen the Engell language for the interview," he commented as he read through her form, and Romina smiled. She started to relax. "You know integration is a process that might take a while, right?" he said. "Yes, it's normal," she quickly agreed. "How many funds do you have with you?" he asked and this was when she was extremely happy that her mother, when everything started and she and her father moved to Rheinbund opened a bank account for her too and asked her to move her money there and exchange it from Forints to Marks, to be sure that she won't lose her economies. "I'd say about 4000 EM. I would have had an extra 1000 but I lost it buying tickets for Rheinbund but all flights were cancelled and I didn't get them back yet," she said. "We will need proof of that," he said and he gave her a piece of paper with a Wi-Fi code and password and a Bluetooth password too for a printer which was in the office with them. "If you could get through the banking app or contact someone to give you a statement, it would really help us," he said. Romina was intrigued by it as it felt a bit weird to ask a refugee about this, but she took her phone out. There was a "Welcome to Corrientes" text, which was also telling her how expensive every call and internet usage was, but there was also an "unregistered on the network" error, so it was clear the Csengians cut Zara off from their telecom infrastructure after the military socialist coup d'etat in Gonzaga last night.

She opened her banking app and generated a statement, but she was just too curious and didn't want to play meek. "Can I ask why is it the funding important, considering the refugee status?" she asked. The guy was surprised by the question. Probably all of the people before just went along with it. "It's to see how and where were send you. We have refugee centers in the country, but they are around Cumana, Utica or Villa Tunari, in the interior and western fringes of the country. If we are to consider that you have enough funding and are adapted enough knowing the language, we will let you be as any immigrant, to move or live and rent anywhere you want," he said. She nodded, understanding and a part of her was really hoping that they won't send her to a refugee center, as she knew Josefino and considered she had enough money to live for nearly 3 to 4 months without a job, so she was quite well off. She connected her phone to the wi-fi and messages, emails, news, everything started coming on the phone, but she preferred to ignore them. She generated the statement from the app and then sent it to be printer. The policeman took it, checked it, completed some stuff in his own papers and then added it to her form.

"One more question," he said. "If things don't calm down, or they do calm down but in a very long time, would you be ready to consider Corrientes your home?" he asked. This surprised her. "Zara stopped being a home when Pannonia died and Csengians started acting like are waging a war against me. I still feel connected to the places I lived my life in Gonzaga, but I just don't have great hopes for it. Currently I want to live somewhere I can be myself, do what I enjoy, and be safe. Doing all that I promise anyone that I will be a law abiding person and if I get all that, I can say I am home," she said, trying to be as poetic, while also as vague as possible. The policeman smiled, get her back the ID, without the form and the passport and invited her out, announcing that the interview is over.

Romina was led into a waiting room and was told that she will be given her status in the following minutes. From what she understood there were three options of what could happen. She could be given refugee status but be sent in a center, or be given the refugee status and allowed to leave like any legal immigrant, being given the right to move, work and live anywhere, or be refused refugee status and then put on a plane back to... somewhere in what was Pannonia. The last one scared her the most, the middle one was the dream. She used this time to call her family. Both her parents were extremely concerned and worried, because they heard on the news the stuff about the socialist coup and they feared she was caught in between, especially now that there was no way out as Eugenia didn't exist anymore and it was replaced with a new Socialist Republic of Zara. Her father was shocked to hear that she ended up in Corrientes, of all places, but knew that once she left the country she would lose her status, to he literally ordered her to stay there, whatever happens, as it's on the other side of the globe and as far away from Gallo-Germania as possible.

She waited probably for 3 hours. At one point her phone died and she was forced to just look around, as people were either too sleepy or too grumpy to hold conversations. She began to get more and more nervous, as she saw some people were rejected the refugee status, but when she saw they were boarded on places to Gran Occidentia or San Jose, she relaxed, as it meant they weren't returned to Pannonia, and would probably remain there. At other times, she could even cry out of joy for others who were granted refugee status and at the end of those three long hours, even being sent to a refugee center in Villa Tunari, as much as she found it horrid at first, started to sound good. That is when she was interrupted from her daydreaming by the same policeman who interviewed her. She was literally one of the very few who remained.

"It was not an easy decision," he said giving her the passport, and it made her heard jump and she could feel sweat drops forming on her forehead. "But you were given the A1 refugee status, because of your decent funding and your good knowledge of Josefino," he said smiling. She was dumfounded. "Wha... What does this mean?" she asked. "It means you were given the right to life anywhere in Corrientes you wish and to work, without being sent to a center where you had to learn the language, so you are free to do and live as you please," he said, continuing to smile. She just lost it, started crying and even hugged him. She then looked on her passport and saw the sticker with her status on the third page.

"Be sure to always keep the passport with you," he said. "You will need to call the Job Center to get a social identification number, a new sim card to get a local phone number and get a place to live," he continued, handing her a piece of paper with information for immigrants on how to get the SIN. He then handed her another paper, with a list of NGOs which aided refugees in and around Callao with housing. "Good luck... and... welcome to Corrientes," he said, waving her good bye.
 

Corrientes

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Bucharest
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Callao, 2 hours later

Romina still couldn't believe it. She opened up her passport and saw it. A sticker on the first all empty visa page, with a large seal of the United States of Corrientes, a photo of her, info on her arrival in Corrientes, the 11th of September 2021, and her status, A1, meaning refugee. But she knew that there were other refugee statuses too and this literally was her ticket into a permanent residence with as many rights as a citizen, with the exception of voting. Looking at this sticker, made her feel something that she hasn't in many months. Happiness. Only now she felt she was finally understanding what was happening and how she just dodged a bullet in Eugenia, being extremely close to being left behind.

She went outside the border guard refugee receiving center, and stepped into the lobby of the terminal. She looked at the papers the policeman gave her regarding the accommodation into her new Correntine life. There were some NGOs which would aid with housing listed there, but she decided to first follow the advice of the border guard who interviewed her. She looked around, but very few people were still in the terminal, many waiting for the passengers of other incoming flights. Romina went to a security guard. "Hi, sorry... I was told that I can meet here some NGOs that can offer aid in housing refugees," she said. The security guard scratched his head, looking around. "Eh... many of them left, as there's been many hours since the last Gonzaga plane came..." he still looked around and then locked his gaze upon a woman just coming out of a restroom and then going to a seat where she left about ten raffia nylon bags, all empty. "Dona Sabrina!" he shouted, catching her attention. He started going towards her, and Romina followed.

"Dona Sabrina, there is one more left, can you please help her?" the security guard asked. The woman, probably in her early or even mid 70s, clearly used to be beautiful in her youth. She had white hair, tied around her neck too, making similar to a Muslim headwear, she was also wearing some dark sunglasses, which clearly gave her the vibe of a retired Cedarwood actress more than anything else. It was the wrinkles around her eyes and her laugh lines which really showed her age. The woman was startled but then showed Romina a big smile.

"Of course," she said smiling. "You're Zaran?" she asked and Romina nodded. "I always enjoyed helping, but this last flight barely received any A1s and they were most sent to centres and the big NGOs. But I can always help," she said. Romina was happy, and took her passport to show her that she had an A1 refugee status. She could literally feel Dona exhaling relaxed when she saw it. "Yes, we can sort everything out. Come one my dear, my car is parked right here on the lobby," she said taking Romina's arms and was even ready to take her luggage, but Romina didn't allow her, thinking it's too much to leave it to the 70 year old woman, especially as she was already struggling to hold the 10 raffia bags. "Thanks again, Sergio!" the old woman shouted to the security guard who just waved at the both of them.

Dona Sabrina led Romina into the ground level of the termina's parking lot, where she had a dark blue ENA Selva SUV parked. She unlocked the car, put Romina's luggage and her raffia bags in the boot and then her and Romina went into the car.

"I'm sorry if I was a bit too aggressive," Dona Sabrina said towards Romina, "It's because I'm not a true refugee NGO, I'm just a volunteer ready to offer decent rentals for people coming over, so I'm allowed to do it only to tourists, people who have blue cards, so permanent residency, citizens and A1 refugees," she continued. "Sabrina, but everyone calls me Dona Sabrina. Officially, if you want to be extra formal, Sabrina Sofía García Sánchez," she said shaking Romina's hand. "Romina Bertrani," Romina introduced her too. Dona Sabrina smiled. "Before we start, I want to make sure you don't feel I waste your time," Dona Sabrina said. "I know that being an A1 refugee means you have some funds with you. I'm not an NGO that can offer you housing for free, but I own a building down in Bocagrande, which is an up and coming neighbourhood here in Callao, right by the mountains and the sea is close by. I can offer you a room in an apartment for 1200 Quri, so that's around 200 EM per month, utilities included," she said. Romina thought about it for a bit.

Truth be told, her options were to find hotels until she can do some visits around to find rent, and if Dona Sabrina won't ask her rent in advance, or references, which, considering Eugenia as a country didn't exist anymore and it was now a Socialist Republic under a strict lockdown, with Csengia ready to invade it, it was clear there was no way to get any. "Two hundred EM per month with utilities included sounds good," Romina said. Then again, for this money she could have rented a studio apartment all by herself in Gonzaga, before the dissolution of Pannonia, but it was not the time to be picky. She should be happy she is here, not in what is a failing state ready to become a battleground. She just hoped that the Josefino President won't visit Callao very soon and do his chaotic magic here too.

Dona Sabrina nearly let out a happy chant as she started the engine. As she drove out of the Pablo Herrera International Airport, then drove along the National Road No.1 into Callao, through the fancy northern neighborhoods, with its villas, it's private streets, which then opened the way to skyscrapers, the city scape of Callao was something Romina has never seen before. The city was situated in what was a uniquely geographic place. Somewhere where the Los Altos de la Sabana, the savannah highlands, with its rocky cliffs would meet the delta of the huge Catatungo River, and the Thaumantic Ocean, or how it was called around the coast here, the Crystal Sea. This meant that the huge city, with its more than 13 million people was hugely expansive but always its scape interrupted by cliffs, huge rocks, even mountains, followed by arms of the Catatungo delta, estuaries of the Crystal Sea and even rocky isles and islets along the horizon. Romina didn't care much of Occidentia when she was living her live in Gonzaga. She always watched videos on MePipe and saw pics on Dagerrogram from Rio Verde, the biggest city in Corrientes, Puerto Angeles, the capital of Gran Occidentia, Palmira, the capital of San Jose and even los Cabos de la Paz, the capital of Implaria. She knew Callao was famous for its landscape, and because at the top of one of those rocks, there was a huge statue of Jesus Christ with open arms, embracing the city and Catatungo Delta, but it's one thing to see it on images on Dagerrogram and another thing in person.

Dona Sabrina was driving in such a way that not once did Romina think they will die. It seemed she had a way of never checking to her right if it was clear before changing lanes, but it seems she was a natural in what Romina couldn't describe in any other way but as the chaotic driving of Callao. After crossing through the northern part of the city, which later Romina found out it was made out of the neighborhoods of Caracoles, Barlovento, Ricos and Anita, Dona Sabrina drove on an inner city highway, which shocked Romina even more. Back in Eugenia, they always presented nations like Corrientes or Gran Occidentia as being poor, chaotic, barely functional and ridden with crime, but she was shocked to see at one point a huge highway intersection where roads were going on nearly three levels one above the other, something she expected to see only in Ottawa, Natal or the Federation. She then crossed one of the largest arms of the River, and then drove on a road along it, named Avenida Gran Boca, here, she could clearly see the rocky cliffs appearing here and there along the river, separated by buildings 5 to 10 story high. Palms, eucalyptuses and other tropical trees where everywhere, and the greenery was so lush that it surprised her from the late summer atmosphere of Gonzaga.

"Sorry about the raffia bags too," Dona Sabrina said as she was driving. "When I was younger, I was really big into charity, and got friends at the airport, so I always brought stuff, like supplies and clothes to aid refugees, nowadays, working all by myself, people start to forget me," she said. " So you were really active in your youth," Romina said. "Oh yeah, I was a photographer for El Periodico and El Espectador and then landed a job for the European Forum. Back in the 60s and 70s I visited the whole world, seeing all sorts of paradises turned into battlefields, so I know how and what a refugee's suffering is. I then married with what I thought was a really nice man. Then again, we were both young and he was really... really... handsome," Dona Sabrina continued. "I gave him my everything and he took everything from me. He banned me from travelling and wanted me to stay put, around Corrientes. Of course I suffered, but back in the day one couldn't just divorce someone without becoming pariah. So, as a reward, I made his life hell, until he allowed my do to my thing and do charity work here, so since then, I aided refugees. I think that was in 1974. Looking back now, it was better. Traveling around would have attracted attention, and honestly, when you live in a military dictatorship like Corrientes was between 1975 and 1984, well, let me tell you, the last thing you want is to catch attention, and I really think it is the same in Csengia or even Zara now," Dona Sabrina continued and Romina didn't interrupt her. She was fascinated by her story.

"Now I help refugees come to Corrientes, back then I was helping refugees escape Corrientes. I was part of this underground system where we were allegedly employing people as fishermen and we were sending them on trawlers to the Georgia Islands or even San Jose. We then declared them missing on the sea and employ some more who wanted to escape. I think we had the biggest turnover in employers in the whole world and the biggest mortality," Dona Sabrina said laughing as she continued to drive totally careless. "My husband was paying the authorities to ignore us and I was allegedly killing all fishermen and then letting them be reborn where they could be safe," she said. "But then, the dictatorship fell, things calmed down and for a while, I was drifting doing just superficial stuff, until my husband died and I inherited the building. He kept it a secret, I can't imagine how, but here we are," she continued. "Sorry if I'm talking too much," Sabrica continued laughing. "No, don't worry about it, I am actually fascinated by it. I never knew very much of Correntine history," Romina answered.

They continued driving for some more, this time Romina telling Dona Sabrina her personal history, and stories of her husband whom she divorced after he cheated on her and how she had a music club there. Dona Sabrina parked the car in front of the building, a 5 story block, painted in white with some beige decorative motives. It wasn't really that different to other buildings nearby. Dona Sabrina led Romina into a two bedroom apartment. "If you wanted to live with a woman, I'm sorry, but this is the last room I had. You will share with Fabián, a nice guy," said Dona Sabrina. Romina was led into what will be her bedroom. A simple double bed, a nice wardrobe, a desk, a chair and near the window a small armchair. It was a really nice room. "How does it look like?" Dona Sabrina asked her. "I love it. It's perfect," Romina murmured. "Look, you look exhausted. I will let you take a nap, because the craziness of the last 48 yours plus the shitty time zone change really comes after you," Dona Sabrina said. "Come look for me in the evening after you name and set yourself up," she continued.
 

Corrientes

Elder Statesman
Joined
Jul 17, 2010
Messages
2,375
Location
Bucharest
Capital
Callao
Nick
Ovi
Callao, 12th of September 2021, 8:30 pm

Romina woke up after a nightmare. She dreamt that she was still in her house, or was it her old club, she was unsure, and that her mom was in a corner, crying, her brother laid shot and her dad was arguing with a soldier, who was speaking a language which was quite different from what she got used to. Not Csengian, probably Tarusan. She woke up and looked around, and remembered she was on the other side of the world. Corrientes. The United States. The sound of two men yelling something, that seemed rythmic, only rising in intensity startled her, especially when one left a loud and long "Oooooooh" and another one started laughing. She flicked the light on the nightstand and was shocked to see... a joint put there. At first she panicked. Back in Pannonia, in her childhood years, the police were planting pot in political dissidents houses and then staged raids to present them as drug traffickers, but then again, she remembered she was in Corrientes. If Correntines were even 10% like the Josefinos, they probably enjoyed pot. A lot.

She woke up, took the joint and went out of her bedroom, thinking it was a gift from her flatmate, Fabian. She looked around the apartment, but it was empty and dark. It was hot and humid, so she went to the kitchen and opened a window, which had a panorama of the main street and the she could see the city scape. It was so much different than Gonzaga. It also surprised her how early sun was setting. The main difference from the morning she moved in was that there were some dirty plates and cutlery in the sink, so Fabia was around. She decided to go upstairs and talk with Dona Sabrina.

Romina's apartment was on the 1st floor. The building had 3 floors with 2 apartments on each. It was clear Dona Sabrina was a rich lady if she could afford to offer for rent 6 apartments. She went to the 2nd floor, to number 3, and knocked. It was clear now that the voice of the two men came from here. She knocked again, and could hear a woman laugh too, and between her laughter she could barely hear her inviting her in.

"¡Chúpalo! ¡Chúpalo! Suck it! Suck iiiiiit!" she could hear the shouting of one of the men, and the woman, Dona Sabrina started laughing too. Romina went in leaving behind her shoes at the entry, and went into the living room. "Oh, the new member of our family!" announced Dona Sabrina. She was lounged on an armchair drinking a glass of wine, while the two men, were playing on the console, a football simulation game. The two men put their controllers down and turned towards Romina. She greeted them and introduced herself. One of the men was Ander Suarez, or fully, Ander Alejandro Suarez Blanco. He was a young man, ten years younger than her, in his mid 20s, with a light skin tone, blue greenish eyes, and dark hair, sporting a stubble. He was about 1.80 and about 85kg, on the athletic side. The other man, was thinner than him, had a darker skin, with black eyes and was rocking a medium sized beard. The beard gave him an older look, but he clearly was in his mid 20s too. His name was Fabian Ortiz de Leon, who was also Romina's flatmate.

"Sorry, I really was enjoying the game and didn't hear you when you first knocked," Dona Sabrina said, clearly referencing the game the two were playing. "Sorry to bother," Romina said, but the two men made it clear for her that it was no bother. The more the merrier. They returned to their game, a match between Deportivo Cumana and Atletico Callao, which was a remake of the Finals of the Copa de Oro in 2021, when for the first time two Correntine teams reached the final. This time the two calmed down a bit so a form of dialogue could be had, even if Romina was shocked at how competitive the two were. Dona Sabrina allowed her to sit on an armrest of the armchair, while the two returned on the couch and retook their controllers, resuming the game.

"How do you feel, querida?" Dona Sabrina asked her. "Did you manage to sleep a little?" she continued and Romina nodded. "Yeah. It's incredible how much jetlag can just destroy you. I feel exhausted yet energic at the same time, if that's even possible," Romina said. "Have you given it a thought? Do you want to live with us? I'm sure Fabian won't mind," Dona Sabrina said. "Right, Fabian?" she asked, this time louder, but he was just too concentrated. "Que?" he muttered with a slight delay. "I was saying that you don't mind..." Dona Sabrina started but was interrupted. "Mierda! This damn button never works when you need it! He was supposed to pass, not to shoot!" Ander nearly shouted. "They're not that bad, believe me," Dona Sabrina whispered to Romina.

"So, do you want to stay with us?" she asked again and this time, Romina gave her a smile. "Yeah, I think I would really enjoy it," she said it. "Ay, Perfect. I already made some preparations, as I know starting life from scratch is completely overwhelming, especially when its done in such a state of crisis like you, probrecita, were in," Dona Sabrina said, rising from her chair and taking Romina to the kitchen. "I took the liberty of making a call and booking you an interview at the job center, so you can get your personal identification number. It's like social security. It's for taxes. You will need it for when you apply for jobs," Dona Sabrina said as they both came in the kitchen and the two guys started shouting to each other. Romina knew that this was the next step and was glad Dona Sabrina was helping her with it. "Wednesday, on the 15th at 10 in the morning, you'll be having the interview. They will ask you stuff like when you came, if you'd like to stay, that kind of stuff and don't worry, there are literally no wrong answers, they ask only for statistics," she continued. "Now, we need to make you legal, I have a typical contract, issued by the town hall," she said, giving Romina a document, about 10 pages long. It was quite typical. "There's a guarantee of 200 EM, and then the first month's rent, which will be 200 too. After that, starting October, if you could pay around the 15th, it would be perfect," Dona Sabrina said. They discussed the details of it and she gave Romina her bank account number and Romina used the banking app to pay her.

With the housekeeping done, Dona Sabrina returned to her living room. "Okay, it'd say we should leave the game for a different night. I want you two to do me a favour," she said towards Ander and Fabian. "Romina needs a local sim card, and Ander I was wondering if you could get her a good deal at your place," she said but Ander waved her off. "No, I don't hate her that much to offer her a CorNet deal. Nah, we'll be going for Connex. Plus, you know me, I'm not a company man," He said and then leaned in towards Romina. "I quite hate it to be fair," he said smiling. "Fine, we'll go. I think they're open till 10 in the evening so we have about one more hour," Fabian said. "But first, dress your sexy ass up," said Fabian as he literally smacked Ander's ass. "I thought you always loved me naked, or at least in shoddy gym shorts" said Ander. "Yeah, but we're in public and we're going in an even more public public, so do your thing," Fabian said. Ander went on out into his apartment, which Romina would find out was literally on facing her and Fabian's. Dona Sabrina chuckled and just shook her head.

Romina went to her and showed her the joint. "I found this on the night stand, I think someone left it there," she said unsure what to expect and her coming from the conservative Pannonia, was even fearful Dona Sabrina would chuck her out for bringing drugs in the apartment, but Sabrina just laughed. "That someone was me. It was my gift for you. The moment I saw your eyes as you went into the apartment, I was sure you will remain with us, so I decided to make you that gift," she said smiling. "It's not much, I have about 5 plants that I grow on the roof, but at least I hope it will relax you for a bit, considering you've gone through hell and back," she continued smiling and probably for the first time in the past week, Romina felt she could let go of her guard and start relaxing.

Ander barged in back in the apartment, wearing some beige short chinos and a white shirt. "I said dress up, not dress for a fashion show," moaned Fabian. "Hey. Even if we're going to get a sim card, we're going out. We need to look decent, have some class. We're in Callao, the nicest city in the western hemisphere, not where you came from... Villa Tunari... ugh," said Ander making some faces and mocking Fabian. Romina later found out that the former, Ander, was from Rio Verde, which at 21 million people, overshadowed Callao, as Corrientes' largest city, and was coming from a middle class family, and was studying for a masters degree in Business Administration here, while Fabian was coming from a working class family. His father was a mining engineer in Villa Tunari. After studying Engellexic and German at university, he was working as a translator in Callao.

The three left the building, allowing Dona Sabrina to rest. "It's important to be extremely careful, because many of the adverts in the neighbourhoods are sometimes outright false. You will be charged a lot more if you buy the sim card from small shops, because they get commission. For something decent, you will need to go to the real thing. Also, because you're new in the country, your credit score is literally non-existing, so you can only take a pay as you go sim," Ander started explaining. He had a part time job in a job doing exactly this and selling phones to what he called the most annoying animal on earth, retail customer. They went out of the street and unto a boulevard and that was when Romina thought that she was probably in the city for about 48 hours and only saw it at night. It was a nice view, but she knew she'll enjoy it more by the day, but she needed first and foremost to get rid of the jet lag. The three went down in for the subway.

It was Romina's first time going with the subway. She knew of the tube in Dulwish and the memes and horror stories of the Toccoa subways, but what surprised her was how extensive and at moments outright crazy the Callao subway was. The trains consisted of eight carriages, all aluminium grey with a rainbow band around the mid along the carriages. What surprised her the most, even if it was past 9pm, was how crowded everything was: the pavement, the subway station, the train itself. When they managed to get it, it felt like they were sardines in a can. During their trip, she told them about her personal history and how life in Pannonia got disrupted and what it meant to be Zaran in the latter days of the Republic, before independence and how now everything was even worse with the Socialist Republic, as everyone expects war to commence. To her surprise, both Ander and Fabian were quite politically literate and could follow her story even if it was happening on the other side of the world.

"So, whom are you sharing your apartment with?" Romina randomly asked Ander as they went out the subway downtown. "What do you mean?" he asked back. "When I said I'd want an apartment, Dona Sabrina told me that she had only one spot left, and that was with Fabian," Romina said, but she was startled to see both of them laugh, even if Fabian also blushed. She gave them a weirded look and that made Ander do a gesture that they need to stop. "No, no, Dona Sabrina is something else... dios mio..." he said as he left another chuckle out. "I don't share currently with anyone," he said, but when Romina's brow furrowed, Fabian chimed in. "Dona Sabrina sees us as her kids... and sometimes she does what she calls match-making. She just randomly assigns people in apartments, making sounds like there's no other option because she things we might get well together and even get together," he said, blushing even more. To their surprise Romina laughed, and she could see how they both relaxed. "So wait. I though you were gay and together," she said. And this time they all laughed. "No, I'm the gay one, that's why she put you with Fabian," Ander said. "The last time she gave me a colleague, she threw a Pelasgian my way," Ander said, laughing even more. "I expect it didn't work," Romina said. "Ay, Pelasgians are something special, but a gay Pelasgian is..." Ander started saying, but was interrupted. "Gay Pelasgians are cursed, totally weird," Fabian said, interrupting him. "Yeah, he was nice, but he had some issues, a lot of self hate, in the end decided to move back to Propontis, thinking life here is too depraved," said Ander. "Depraved?" Romina asked. "Yeah, he once saw Dona Sabrina smoking a joint, and that scared him. He didn't imagine he would see old women doing it," said Fabian laughing.

By now, Romina started liking the two guys. She liked that they opened up to her and acted like she was already part of the group, even if they barely known eachother for about 40 minutes. She did find it funny that Fabian was straight yet was doing the most jokes and comments on men and being weirdly flirty with Ander, but she felt that was their own weird inside joke. They went in and bought a local sim card and Ander used one of the small keys to change the sim, which he was always wearing with him. "A professional defect, I hope to get rid of it," he said smiling. Now, with a place to live, already seeing the stem of a friendship forming, immigration bureaucracy all sorted and a Correntino phone number, Romina finally felt she could start her life here.
 
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Corrientes

Elder Statesman
Joined
Jul 17, 2010
Messages
2,375
Location
Bucharest
Capital
Callao
Nick
Ovi
El Nuevo Mundo - The New World
Romina
Callao, 10th of August 2022


A year has passed. Well, nearly. Eleven months. They were some of the weirdest eleven months in my life, to be honest. My parents did visit me at some point close to Christmas and they really enjoyed a tropical December and were quite happy that I was here, on the other side of the world, rather than still in Gallo-Germania. While for Zara, it was a horrendous year. After the socialist coup, internal fighting and lack of support made General Leoni to run away and leave for Palmira, leaving the country. The nation fell into total anarchy and banditry, with only two options, either work for some gangster, or die of hunger. Economic life fully stopped when the country, lacking recognition couldn't form decent economic partnerships, and what was still functional was smothered by gangs and bandits who were living off asking for protection money. Then came the very end, when the Natalians came with a peace plan which included Zara to be annexed by Csengia, as an autonomous Duchy.

The spring was even worse for me, when I heard that my brother was arrested by Csengian authorities for cooperating with the socialist revolutionaries in Kispest and was condemned to death. It wasn't official how they murdered him, but I was told that hanging was their most typical method. It hit me hard, as my brother was always the model for me growing up, and I felt sometimes even more present in my life than my own parents. I was happy that at least Dona Sabrina, Ander and Fabian were close, especially the latter, as I felt sometimes that he was going that extra mile to listen to me, or to understand me. It was clear that it was impossible to see Zara a home for me or my parents, as we all concluded we were on some black list and would disappear once we set foot back, so starting April 2022, I made more and more efforts to ensure that Corrientes will become my new homeland.

Ander promised to help me find a job like his, in CorNet, but when I told him that I can't really see myself talking all day about phones and their characteristics, let alone try to sell them off, it was clear I needed something else. Yesterday, he made it clear that I was lucky I didn't get that job, when he came with a huge bruise on his neck, shouting and screaming, so much that Dona Sabrina prepared him a join to calm him down. It seems a customer literally throw his phone at him, when he found out how much he had to pay after spending a week in San Jose and while Ander managed to evade it enough to not hit him in the face, it hit him in the neck.


A few weeks later, in November I finally managed to find a job, in a supermarket, in the same complex where Ander had his own shop. AMB Comercio was a Correntine franchise of supermarkets and they were huge, like had about half the market captive. I managed to find a job as a team leader, which pretty much meant I had to make sure that all the tills were working when people were queueing and to sort out any issues coming up, which sometimes included running around the shop to get an alternative product if the previous one didn't scan. It wasn't a glamorous job, but because it was right between a normal worker and a manager, it gave me enough money to pay my rent and live decently, without touching the rest of the money I brought over from Zara, which made me happy.

Life at Dona Sabrina's was starting to be quite good. While I met the others living there, a young couple, a family with 2 kids and some others sharing a flat, it was clear that me, Ander and Fabian were like an inner circle, as we started spending our leisure time more and more with Dona Sabrina, smoking with her, drinking with her, eating with her, and of course watching the matches of Atletico Callao with her, because it seems football was the real state religion here. Spending time with them made the heartache of what happened in Pannonia and what happened to my brother start to fade more and more, and even if I was about a decade older than Ander and Fabian, Dona Sabrina always acted like we were some idiotic kids, which also made me feel 10 years younger.

In the afternoon, I came back home from work and literally could feel a vein in my head ready to pop after an argument with a customer. I went in my apartment and saw that Fabian was at work. I quickly change from the dark blue jacket and the shit we have as our uniform and I start to smell food. I text Ander, as by now I got used to that fact that when someone on a floor was cooking, the others would clearly smell it. He invited me over, and gave me a heads up that he'll probably feel the need to talk a lot, which of course meant, talk a lot of shit. I shrugged, at least we'll get the diablos out of our system together.

"How's your neck, mi amor?" I ask as I enter his apartment. I think a bit of Fabian rubbed on me as I became part of the weird flirty inside jokes, even if Fabian gets jealous it's not only him hitting on him anymore. Ander blew a raspberry and uncovered an ugly bruise that was getting yellowish, underneath the collar of his work uniform polo shirt. "Customers are the biggest mierdas," I say. He nods. "Calling them animals is an affront to the four legged ones," he added. "I could smell you're cooking something," I say leaning towards the stove. "I was in a weirdly good mood, so rather than something quick and sad, I decided to do a Bandeja Verdena," he says, with a quite proud smile. "A green-ish platter?" I ask weirded out and his smile died off and was replaced by a grimace. "A Verdeño is something from Estado Rio Verde, it's a typical platter. Just a lot of food put together, do you want?" he asked me and I felt a bit guilty, knowing that I have a better paid job and it's a full time one, while he only works part time. "I feel bad to eat your food, I literally self invited myself to your place," I say but Ander quickly waved me off. "Cooking such a Bandeja results in much food, so it's perfect you did," he says.

I tell him my story with the angry customer, while he tells me of some guy he started chatting with and it seems that after yesterday he felt like he was ready to die, now he was quite happy about this new encounter. He then prepared the platter and literally thrown my way a huge plate filled with chicharron, fried pork belly, rice, avocado, fried plantains and instead of beans, which he said he never liked, he sauteed some mushrooms, peppers, eggplants and zucchini. "We need to do something better with our lives," he says as we eat and I nod. "Tell me about your club thing back in Gonzaga," he says and it took me by surprise so much that I nearly chocked with a plantain.

"Well, it was something between a bar and a club. I preferred to call it a music club, because I felt the music took centre stage. It had a stage, a small dance ring in front of it and around it tables and a bar by the entrance. It was my husband's idea to have a karaoke bar. But then he divorced and with my parent's help I managed to buy him out and reduced the karaoke thing to one or two nights a week and in the rest I would have artists give live performances. Right before the war, it became so known in Eugenia, that I even reached a point where I had scouts from recording companies come every weekend, to see who I manage to put on the stage that evening. It was magical, I always loved music, I always loved such establishments, as you can see it made people happier," I say starting to daydream about it. "How about we do that here, in Callao?" Ander says and it felt as a wakeup call from my daydreaming. "Que? With what money? We don't have the dineros, the place, the connections," I say. "We'll sort that out, but hear me out. Callao is the place where, here along the Valley of the Catatungo, where the Vallenato music was born. People love acoustic music, you can hear it everyone, in the train station, in the busses, on the beach, on the streets. It clearly remains a very popular style, which sadly was thrown on the streets and is now seen as a low culture phenomenon, because the high culture only wants Engellexic music and electronic beats," he says. "Ander, I should be the dreamer. You and your Business Administration MA should be telling me why this works financially," I say with quite a sad smile, because a part of me really wants his optimism.

Ander continues to eat for a while but then I could see it on his face. "What are your plans for tomorrow?" he asks. "Work, allow myself to be abused and exploited for some extra Quris, why?" I say. "I'm gonna take you to a special place. You said you like music and think Vallenato, Cicha and the likes are too local and archaic and feel like only a sad, drunk abuelo would still listen to them, but I'm gonna prove you wrong," he said with an impish grin. "I never said that... but okay?" I reply confused, as I finish my food. "What do you feel about tourist traps?" he asks me still grinning. "I think you should know me by now that I will say they're shitty and that we should find a more genuine and local establishment," I say confused. "But it's perfect," he said and I'm by now weirded out, not only confused. "Such music places are exactly like that, genuine and local. But what if, we make it touristy? That would solve the financial issue," he says. "But how do you want to attract tourists if you want to play them Vallenato? Accordion is the main instrument in such songs!" I said this time laughing because it sounded so preposterous it reached the absurd. "We revolutionize it. We modernise the sound," he says and he takes out his phone and blasts me with a reggaeton song that was already everywhere on the radios for a few years by now, from Puerto Cafe in San Jose. "Reggueton?" I ask. "Listen to it closer, to the instrumental bit, not the lyrics," he says. "I don't follow," I say as I start to think that maybe I'm too tired of it. "They use traditional instruments and then make the sounds fuller using synthesizers. They modernised traditional rythms and sounds of the archipelago and made it modern, to attract new audiences, that's what we should do. Put the pop in Tiburano pop or Vallenato pop," he says as the song ends. I start to follow him and like the idea and clearly tourists would love it, so it can be feasible financially. We just need now a place, money to start and connections, so about 98% of what we needed before.

A knock on the door startles me and Ander shouts that the door is unlocked. "Ay, perfecto, mi hijos, but without the serious one," Dona Sabrina said as she enters the apartment, laughing, clearly in a good mood. Ander serves her with some food too and then he jumps into his bedroom to change as he was excited that he had a date, with some guy named Fernando, which he he seems head over heels after.

"So, good news," Dona Sabrina said. "We'll be getting international," she continues, but then stops. "I don't mean you, querida, you're part of the family and 110% Correntina," she says resting her arm on shoulder and I smile back to her. While I know some would feel offended, on both sides, either by having their heritage whitewashed or by being reminded they were not locals, I quite enjoy myself and doing my best to actually assimilate. I know I won't be returning to Zara, ever. "We'll be getting a Josefino and an Occidentian," she said. "But we're Occidentian," says Ander as he comes out, wearing some dark jeans and a white linen shirt. Dona Sabrina made a grimace. "I meant Gran Occidentano," she says with a tone that it should have been clear. I nodded, being quite curious on them, but Ander just groaned.

"I am alright with the Josefino. If he's friendly he will clearly enjoy our pot filled evenings on the terrace, but the Gran Occidentano will probably make things weird," he says and I look a bit surprised towards Dona Sabrina. She makes eye contact with me and rolls her eyes. "That's why I came, I want you to behave. No useless politics. No shit talking of integralism," she says. "I'm not the one shit talking integralism, it's the other way around," he says quite vehemently. "Oh come on, Ander, be a dear. It's clear that if he's here he won't be all that much into it. He'll be enjoying the good life in Puerto Angeles," Dona Sabrina says. "I don't think so," he said as he shows us on his phone the news of the revolution in Gran Occidentia. We quietly watch the clips of the protesters and the statements of the Caudillo and then Dona Sabrina claps gleefully. "You see! It's even better! It's done, it's over! Finally the last dictatorship on the continent has fallen and now it's time to open our arms and embrace each other," she says but Ander just raises a brow circumspectly. "Are you planning to move the Occidentian with me? That's why you're lubbing me up like this?" he asks chucking and I start laughing. Dona Sabrina makes a grimace. "I was, but seeing you like like an ogre, I'll put them together on the top floor, which honestly, it's better for them. The Josefino would love it, as he will easily smell our pot filled evenings on the terrace. They have a 6th sense of it, you know?" Dona Sabrina says the last part seriously and a part of me wonders if she was serious or not.

"I just don't want to repeat the awkwardness of Chrysanthos," Ander says referring to the Pelasgian guy who lived with him more than year ago. From their stories, he was weird. But it's not like he had no flatmates, it's just that he was actually lucky... or not... to have some who always came short term, only a few months and then left, and then he had the apartment for himself for weeks until a new person came along. "Okay, okay, calmate. I'll put them together on the top floor, but I came here to also tell you to avoid political talks with either of them, and especially with the Occidentian. The last thing I want is a re-enactment of the War in Monterrey in my stairway," she says. Ander started laughing. "You don't need to fear any hostility from me," he says. "I know, you can't hurt a fly, you're just a sabelotodo, a smartass," she says laughing too. Ander left to his very important date, and left us in, with the promise that we will lock once we finish eating. Of course, Dona Sabrina decided to make the dinner nicer by opening up one of Ander's bottles of Aurarian wine. He will probably go crazy once he arrives home, especially as it was a special bottle from 2012, but c'est la vie...
 
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Corrientes

Elder Statesman
Joined
Jul 17, 2010
Messages
2,375
Location
Bucharest
Capital
Callao
Nick
Ovi
Ander
11th of August 2022


The melodious attempt of an alarm woke me up, as at first I though it was my own phone which was ringing, but this was supposed to be a day off, so I wouldn't have enabled the alarm and would have enjoyed lying in bed more. Even so, it was the sound of my alarm and my brain went into full alertness and my arm stretched for the phone, as if pushed by muscle memory only, not me really wanting to do this. I tried to keep my eyes closed as I was having a quite nice dream. It wasn't an innocent one, to be honest, but I wouldn't call it a wet dream either, sort of recalling last night's events and I didn't want the images and the joy and happiness and let's be honest, even the ecstasy of it to go away, because if there is something that everyone misses when they describe sex is how how good it feels to feel a person so much into you. I am in that state of in-between sleeping and being awake and I want to keep it, because I know myself. Once I become fully alert and the sun is up, there won't be a chance I'll be able to fall asleep until after sunset.

I look at my phone's screen, and it's dark. It's not mine, but the alarm still goes on. I turn to my right and it was weird. Last night I hoped Fernando would remain, he said he has to wake up early, and he'd rather sleep at home, and I think I blacked out before he made his mind and I think he preferred to remain. Which made me happy. I don't care of the alarm. I reach my arm around him, and I could see his face relaxing and smiling in his sleep. Or he was awake and ignoring the alarm as I did. He was a bit thinner than me, but still athletic, with a crew cut. An oval face, with nice features that gave him a handsome vibe, even if I don't know why, it felt mysterious too. Like a badass tough guy. That was clearly an image he projected, because he was literally the opposite and I though that at times I was even more cynical and street-wise than him. He had an earing in his left ear, which I couldn't see as he was sitting on that side and now I could see his 5 o'clock shadow, showing a moustache and a goatee, with his beard being sparse on the cheeks.

With the alarm still ringing, he let out a slight groan as he turned on his other side, but also pushing himself backwards into me. He then reached for his phone and turned off the alarm. "Why must morning come so fast?" he said, which made me smile. He then returned back to face me and smiled too. He opened his eyes and locked his gaze into mine. "It's the first time I do this," he says. "Me too," I say but he laughs. "Ay, certo. I imagine you tell that to every guy," he says laughing and I laugh back. "No, seriously, after a first day and all that, it's the first time everything moves so quickly," I say. He rests his head om my arm. "Moving this fast is a true gamble," I say. "But this time, I feel like it was a winning one," I add, smiling. "Yeah, I met my set of weirdos, but to be fair, I quite like that we didn't waste time," he said. We talked some more, even about our romantic histories, and making fun of cringeworthy dates, until a loud bang startled both of us. "Que mierda fue eso?! What the fuck was that?" he said looking over his shoulder towards the wall, as it came from the other side of it. "Probably my dear neighbours deciding to start the demolishing early," I say laughing. He shakes his head, smirking and then rises from the bed.

He was still naked. "Can I take a shower?" he asks and I nod. He looks a bit out the window and stops in his tracks, as if to look around for underwear, but he then turns to me. My gaze falls for a bit and then rises to meet his eyes. "You said you live alone, right?" he asked. "At the moment, yeah," I say. He leaves the room and goes to the bath room. I look at my phone and text Fabian. What did you break? I ask. He immediately texts back. Sorry, I wanted to make coffee and I was looking for the moka pot but then I dropped it and it started a domino effect, with three pots hitting the floor, he wrote, followed by a grimacing emoji. Sorry if I woke you up, he added. It's okay, we were already up, I text back. He just sent three winking emojis. WE? he texted. Don't tell me I interrupted a session of sweet morning lovemaking, he added, followed by an eggplant and a peach emoji. I sigh and then chuckle. No, you're fine. The evening and night ones were sweet enough, I say with the winking emoji. I'm getting jealous, he texted, after which he added: I'll let you do your stuff, as I'm late for work and gotta shower.

Shit, the shower. I forgot to give Fernando some towels. I rise up and go to my wardrobe, and take a big tower and then I cross the apartment's lounge towards the bathroom. I could hear the water in the shower and I wondered if I should knock, but then I decided to just go in, it's not like I haven't seen him naked just before. "Brought you some towels," I say as I enter. He was in the shower, shampooing. "Will you shower later in the day, or do you want to save some water?" he tells me, giving me an impish smile and I smile back, jumping in.

It was 6:45, so he still had a quarter of an hour left before having to leave. We go in the kitchen after we showered and dressed up. I prepare to make him coffee, when I hear knocking on the door. I go and open and Romina storms in. "Sorry if its too early in the morning, but Fabian decided to destroy the kitchen and he woke me up and I couldn't fall back to sleep. I know it was your day off too so thought that rather texting, be more spontaneous so I stole the coffee he made in the remnants of the kitchen and here I am..." she says in a very quick stream of words that felt like they were entangled at times because of her Italiote accent, rushing past me with a moka pot, a bottle of milk and two cups and stops as she reaches the kitchen. I close to door and go after her.

"Hola," she mutters, blushing as Fernando waves from a chair at the table in the kitchen and greets her back. "I hope I didn't interrupt anything," she says. I shake my head. "Because if I knew, I wouldn't have just barged in," she said, this time panicky, but I see Fernando laughs it off and tells her to calm down. "Well, you couldn't have knew unless you were a psychic, because you didn't text, you were spontaneous," I say laughing and she laughs too, this time bumping her hip into me. I kinda forgot that she was a handball player in her youth. She has quite the force even if she has 67kgs to my 85. Fernando laughs and his laugh charms me. It's the first time I see him give a hearty laugh, rather than smirks, smiles and chuckles.

"Either way, I brought breakfast... and by breakfast I mean coffee," she says as she puts the moka pot down, together with the cups and the milk. I do wonder how she managed to carry them all without getting a burn from the moka pot. "Is there any other type of breakfast?" Fernando asks smiling and Romina rolls her eyes. I take a third cup and put it in front of Fernando and then I fill them up with coffee. Romina has hers black, but she knew me so that's why she brought the milk. I fill up two thirds of the cup with coffee and a third with milk, while Fernando barely adds a few drops of milk.

"Romina Bertrani," she introduces herself. "Fernando Rivera," he replies. We talk some more as we drink the coffee, Romina starts questioning him about his life, like she's my mother and he caught me with some form of secret boyfriend. To her surprise, she's delighted to hear that Fernando is doing a masters in ethnography, after he got a BA from the Conservatoire. "Yeah, I was always told to do something better that would get me more money, but I always loved music and I feel I couldn't live with it," he says. He checks the time and panics when he sees it's a quarter past seven and rushes to leave for work. It did surprise me when he sneaked in a kiss on my cheek as he left.

"So, quite a lot to unpack there. Fabian will die of jealousy," she says laughing. I start the moka pot again to make us some more coffee and we sit for the next two to three hours talking about last night and going some basic bitching and gossiping. It's weird that Romina feels like the elder sister I never had. We talk some more and then I randomly asked her if she ever went to the beach since she moved to Callao. It was quite a surprise for me when she shook her head. "Never had the time. Before working I felt guilty doing something that gave me happiness, when I thought of others I knew suffering in Zara, and I didn't manage to sort my life out here, and afterwards, I just never had the time or energy," she said. "But do you have swimwear?" I ask and she nodded. "It's funny but I bought one this May, thinking I might enjoy myself, but I didn't manage to use it yet," she said. This had to change. I send her back to her apartment to get a towel, some sun screen and to prepare. If Dona Sabrina prefers to nap and smoke by herself, and Fabian and Fernando work, that doesn't mean we shouldn't enjoy our day off.

When she was ready, she texted me that she waits me outside. I take my things and go out. We talk along the Rudolfo Caranza street until we hit the Calle 8. We cross the intersection and go through the Plaza Mayor de Callao, one of the biggest pedestrianized plazas in the city. Four large boulevards meet here and go around a huge open green space, divided in four by pedestrian ways, with a huge fountain in the centre. I lead Romina through it and tell her some local histories and what each building around is, and to my surprise he was quite fascinated. "I lived nearly a year here and I never actually took a chance to discover the city," she says. From the centre of the Plaza, one could see the rising cityscape around us and between the skyscrapers, the forested cliffs, with the Crystal Sugar to our left and its cable cars and the jagged appearance that makes it impossible to reach its peak in any other way and to our right, on a huge cliff, albeit small for it is very far away, the Christ the Saviour Statue, the monumental status of Jesus with open arms as if embracing the city. We then continue on a pedestrian road, named La Rambla, known of its upscale boutiques but also, oxymoronically, for its street food carts and that is where we stop to truly eat breakfast. Romina gets some empanadas filled with chicken and cheese and I get some arepas. We thus continue our trek and we stop here and there giving some Quris to the street singers.

"I imagine how well they would be received if they would sing in our thing," I say. "Our thing?" Romina asks. I look at her like I didn't even compute that she would forget. "I talk about the music establishment we discussed about," I say. And she makes big eyes, finally getting it. "Oh, yeah, I preferred to stay away from thinking of it. I would enjoy it. So much... fuck it... So fucking much, but I fear I don't have the necessary capital to start it like I did in Gonzaga," she says. We walk some more and I prefer to change the subject, so we talk some more about work until we reach the beach.

There was a rainbow flag flying about, together with some other flags of Corrientes, a flag of San Jose, even an Aurarian flag. To my chagrin someone even put up a Pelasgian flag. Miracles to happen, I guess, or people are that desperate. "Look, your peeps, shall we go by them?" Romina asks and I look at her weirdly. "Fine, but they will literally stare at you, continuously, for they have no chill," I say and she laughs. We pay 50 Quris to get two sunbeds and we chill for a while. I was happy I managed to find the beds near a clump of palm trees, so at least we could enjoy some shade.

We go for a quick swim and Romina was shocked at how warm the water was, but for most of the time we sunbathe and talk some more shit. Of course, we also splurge, because it was our day off. A thing I loved in Correntine beaches and I never saw anywhere else on public beaches, was the serving. On the pavement near the beach were dozens upon dozens of street food vendors, many even employing busboys to get orders from the people on the beach and bring them food or drinks. I get an aguardiente cocktail, which was pretty much a cane juice distillate mixed in with lime juice, while Romina tries Refajo, a mix of beer with soda, which I never liked, but its omnipresent here. It did surprise me how she worked so much and never actually tried enjoying herself here.

"How is it?" I asked her. "Like a Radler," she says. "Let me try yours," she says and literally jumps to my glass before I manage to say anything. "Strong, minty and lemony, I'll take this next," she says. We enjoy your drinks but then she puts her hand on my arm. "Don't look now, but we're got guys eyeing you," she says smirking. "Don't worry, I'm ready to put the mono in monogamy," I say smiling. "Ay, you really are head over heels. Yeah, Fernando. Dreamy name. Hot guy. He seems quite decent, not as douchey as I thought at first," she says as if she full on psychoanalyzed him. "You thought he was douchey?" I ask. "I mean, with the crewcut, taciturn style and all, he felt very... I dunno, but when he opened up he was fine. I thought that he had this act of trying to look tough and all... I dunno," she says. "But you quite know your thing with Fabian, don't you?" I ask, innocently at first and even jokingly, but then I saw her choking and dropping her Refajo glass. I dunno where a small boy, no older than 10 came from, but he immediately took Romina's order for another drink. "I was joking at first, not now I'm pretty sure there are some things happening," I say. "It's nothing," she says managing to calm her cough. "Hey, I know what I saw. Sneaky check ups, winks, all the flirtation eyes can do," I say. "You did? Was it so much in the open?" she asks after she pays the boy 3 quris for her drink. "Not that much, but now that you say it, I'm sure it really must have been," I say chuckling and she hits me in the shoulder, ready to drop her drink again. "Not funny, Ander. So, you really want to do the music club thing?" she asks.

Interesting way of changing the subject. Going from a funny one that she felt uncomfortable, to a previous one she said it was uncomfortable. "I'd love to. I'd really love to have a thing like a business of my own, to care of it, probably to annoy the hell out of me but to actually feel, that if I do my best at serving customers, they appreciate me and my business, not a huge corporation, like how I do it in CorNet," I say. "We'd need a place, we'll need money, we'll need musicians," she says. "What about the musicians on La Rambla?" I ask. "They're probably making more money that we'll be able to pay them in the first years," she says grumpily. "Conservatoire students?" I ask. "They might enjoy it," I say. "True, but we should concentrate more on making it a bar at first, with music being the secondary thing, like a bonus. Once we get our finances, we can invest in that," she says. "We also need a place, and that's the biggest investment, and don't forget, you're a student who works part time, and I am a full time worker with no credit history, so no chance of a business credit," she says, and for a while I felt like out of the life she left behind in Zara, one of the biggest things she regrets is being forced to start from scratch credit wise. "I will do my best at sorting out the place," I say, but she ignores me, probably thinking I am just trying to raise her morale about it. But truth be told, while now the Suarez family is middle class, it used to be more, and it used to be living in Callao, not in Rio Verde. I will just need to make some calls and do some investigations on the family's fortunes and misfortunes.
 
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Corrientes

Elder Statesman
Joined
Jul 17, 2010
Messages
2,375
Location
Bucharest
Capital
Callao
Nick
Ovi
Romina
13th of August 2022

It was one of those magical weeks, when everything worked out, especially the shifts at work, and because of I worked the last weekend, I'll be getting this weekend off, meaning I'll be enjoying three days off, and on Monday is St Mary's Day, which is a weirdly important holiday here, that even shops are closed, so I get an extended weekend too. There is literally nothing that can bring be down this week. Considering how much I worked recently, it felt that even a normal weekend felt like a holiday. The alarm rang at 9am, as even in the days off I prefer to keep it, so at least I don't miss the whole day and I woke up, feeling quite fresh. I think the beach day with Ander got me so hyped up and I was even thinking that I should enjoy it more. Back when I was a child in Gonzaga, I always dreamt of living on a coastal city so I could enjoy the beaches, and here I was, for nearly a year in Callao, where I not only had beaches but also a year long summer, and I needed 11 months to actually go. I was ready to change this all. I go to my wardrobe and change out of the shorts and tanktop I use to sleep in. Feeling probably happier than usual, I put on the tie dyed t-shirt I used to love, but for which everyone just gave me snarky remarks and I go in towards the kitchen.

I was surprised to see the kitchen all cleaned up, even though last evening Fabian tried to cook something, and ended up turning everything to Carbon-14, and had to ask Ander over with what leftovers he had. In the lounge I see Fabian at the desk, wearing glasses this time. It is only recently that I saw him wearing them and I asked about it, thinking that it's a new thing, but he said that he was wearing eye contacts before and now more and more cannot be arsed with putting them on. "You're up early," I say. He raises his head up from his laptop. He had a Natalian A&C laptop, on which he put some stickers of the maps and flags of the countries he visited. Of course Corrientes was in the centre stage, and was surrounded by San Jose, Gran Occidentia, Radilo, Rheinbund and Pelasgia. "Yeah, I couldn't sleep. I reached the point where I have so much to work that I got a burnout, and thus I am extremely slow at translating this shits, and when I see they are unending, it slows me down even more. And now I even got insomnias because I know I have to do them all, so rather than sitting on my bed, looking at the walls, I decided to wake up and work. Of course, cleaning the kitchen was literally more interesting than doing this," he says, ending the sentence with an exasperated gesture towards his laptop.

"Hey, I don't blame you. I too reached points where I'd rather wash windows than do work, but probably, what you need is a change of pace. When did you have a full day off to recharge?" I asked. I knew how those things usually worked. I say that he should take a day off, he says that work's too much as it is and can't afford it, but thanks me for the thought and then we all do our thing. "Yeah... probably like 3 or 4 weeks ago. The translating agency sent my way a series of ENA contracts that they want translated for the Engel and Rheinbunder markets and they're huge, like 300 pages each and I feel overwhelmed and smothered by them, and now they are followed by some university projects that also need translation..." he moans. "What if, I could help you with the Engellexic ones? I can go around my way with Engellexic, as even in Pannonia back in my day, everyone was learning it," I say. I know he knew that I spoke Engell at near native levels, as he knows I had a period when I was studying in Gonzaga that I was dreaming of moving to Great Engellex and went as far as to write my theses in Engell. "We could do that. That would be incredibly helpful, but are you sure you want to sacrifice your extended weekend translating commerical stuff about cars from Josefino to Engell?" he says. "I'm not," I say. "But I'm ready to help, if needed," I say smiling and he grins back, clearly showing he was relived. "That would really help, as I could concentrate on the German ones," he says. "But with a condition," I say, giving him a stern look. "I will need you to unwind first. Come with me out for a morning walk, maybe we could even get some breakfast empanadas, and then we can start working," I say and he smiles back. I really loved his big smile and the goofy vibe he had. "Fine, I gladly accept it," he says.

"I wonder if Ander would be up and wanting to join us," he says and a part of me, as much as I loved Ander, was cringing. I really wanted to be with him... alone. Which gave me teenage crush vibes, and that made me cringe even more, especially as I'm already 32, in less than a month going on 33. And yes, he was 28. Not that big of a difference, but in the more traditionalist Zara I come from, it would be considered weird for the woman to be older than the man, but still. I really liked him. "He's working. Got a call yesterday from his manager, asking him if he could do a 4 hour shift in the morning, as there was no one to open up the shop," I say, really thanking whoever called in sick and made Ander have to go to work. "Ah, ok. Even better," he says and smiles towards me and I kid you not, as much as it surprised me, it annoyed me that he didn't say more than that. I smile back and he goes to his room, and puts on a t-shirt and puts other gym shorts. "Let's go," he says.

We go outside and we just walk the same way I went with Ander two days ago, as I wanted to try again the empanadas on La Rambla. Going there and back, would give us a respite of about an hour, if we don't rush, and then we can return home. I hope it would offer my something if I just sold out 3 days of my life for an hour.

"You said you got a divorce, right?" he asks me once we get out the building and we go on Rudolfo Caranza Street. "Yeah, his name was Gerardo Bertrani. I ended up keeping the name because I couldn't be arsed losing my patience and nerves to change it back to Rossi. We met when we were in the last year of high school and were together for about ten years. It's quite shocking, to be fair. I think I started seeing red flags or jealousy after about the 3rd or 4th year, but I always considered them to be normal. Like we were taught that is how a man is and acts and part of marriage is coping with it. And after that, about 6 years I just lied to myself that if I turn my back on him and his antics, I will remain all alone, as if I was dependent on him and I couldn't live single. But when things got from bad to worse, it was with the help of my grandma, who told me some of her stories, that finally opened my eyes and we divorced," I say, quite seriously. "It's funny, that when I told her of my divorce, I was actually devastated rather than happy and liberated, and she got a panic attack seeing my crying like this, and when I told her it was about the divorce, all she told me was that the 1st marriage is just an exercise to prepare you for the 2nd, the real one," I say laughing and he laughs too. "I always wanted to reach a point where I could give myself to someone to the point of marriage, but somehow, with everyone I've been with, I always got this itch that it might not be the best thing," he says. "Isn't it stressful to get into something that should be forever?" he asks me and I lock my gaze on him. I could feel his brown eyes looking through the glasses into mine and I felt like he was searching for an answer in the depths of my soul.

"When I first told yes to Gerardo at the altar, I had the same ideals as you. That this is for real and forever. Now, looking back, it's actually quite simple. I never was religious but the sanctity of marriage was instilled in us in Zara, so yeah, I thought it was big. But in the end, it's just a social contract. A civil partnership, if you like. If can break down as easily it is for it to be formed. In the end, the next day after it, the sun still rises and a new day still comes. It's not the end of the world," I say. We reach the intersection with Calle 8, and I observe that he was staring at me as I spoke so I quickly extend my arm to his chest to stop him, as cars were coming. "Sorry, I wasn't paying attention," he mutters.

"What about you? What are you looking for in a chica, a girl," I say, but saying girl sounded a bit weird for me, especially as he too was over 25... "In a mujer, a woman?" I add. He shrugged as a response. "Probably connection. I'd probably sound weird or bipolar, but my past two relationships were the complete opposite. I felt in the first that I gave everything and received nothing, while in the 2nd I felt like I was smothered and wanted some autonomy," he says. "Eh, this is all about connection. It's important for both to want the same thing," I say as we start crossing the boulevard, beginning to approach the Plaza Mayor. I randomly decide to look at my phone to see what time it is. It showed 10:50. "But my father always said that it's important to find someone like you first. Someone who likes to be smothered with love, if you like it too. Someone who is independent if you like it too. Or better said, in his words: someone who enjoys a squeaky clean house, if you are a cleaning freak, or someone who enjoys living in a trash can, if you enjoy it too. It's important to be on the same page. It's not that you are bipolar or anything, but it feels more like you met the extremes of it, and now you must choose someone who is between those two extremes. Someone that is on the same page as you," I say.

We reach the Plaza Mayor and there is a great kerfuffle. All entries into the Square are blocked by the police. There are people standing behind the police barricade, most of them curious. I could hear a policeman talking about an evacuation, and that there has been a bomb threat. We prefer to stand behind but my gaze is locked seeing someone yelling that he's from the press and tries to jump over the barricade. A policeman tries to stop him, but the guy manages to escape the policeman's grip and runs into the plaza. The policeman goes after him, but after a few meters, the other policemen yell for him to return, because it's dangerous. Someone near me shouts some profanities towards the man you went into the plaza.

"We should find some other way to get to La Rambla," I say and Fabian nods. "Yeah, if it's a bomb alert, I'd rather be as far away from it as possible", he says. We make a U turn, going back on Calle 8, so that we can find a Carrera, a perpendicular street that goes in parallel with the Plaza Mayor, so that we can go around it. That is when everything goes to hell. I turned my back to it, and the first thing I see, is that I leave a shadow, even if the sun was in front of me, then at the same time, the loudest noise I ever heard hit me, like the ferocity of a full thunderstorm condensed into a single sound. At the same time, I am pushed by a huge wave of hot air as I feel the whole earth shaking and shattering around me. In a fraction of a second I see Fabian blown away and lands hitting the side door of a nearby parked car, while I am blown away too and pushed a few meters down on the sidewalk. It felt like all the air was taken out of my lungs and that I was like a leaf, blown away, as if I had no weight. I fell as I was pushed by the shockwave and I roll a few times bruising my knees and arms. As I land, I could hear screeches and yelling, while glass shatters and falls all around me.

I open my eyes try to take a deep breath but the smoke, dust and smell or cordite makes me cough. I felt like suffocating, so I put the T-shirt over my nose and I try to breathe. I then look around myself. My knees are bleeding, but its because of my fall. While it felt like everything hurts, my first thought is that if there is something critical, it should have hurt more, but then I remember that adrenaline could have kicked in too, so I start panicking. I have some cuts on my arms from the glass I landed in, or landed on me, but they seem superficial. I look around, first towards the square, where I see that people were just downed by the shock wave as I was, but they started rising up, some even running away. I then gaze at the square. Or what's left of it and all I could see was dust, destroyed buildings and a mushroom cloud, which I never thought I would see in my life. I look towards where we were and try to find the place where Fabian landed. I find him by the car, slowly gathering himself. "Are you okay!?" I yell, as the whizzing in my ears felt deafening. "I think so!" he yells back. I look at the car and it seems like it shielded him. "Romina!" he yells. "You're bleeding, you're wounded!" he says and I try to tell him that there's only superficial cuts and bruises when his facial features change for the worst.

He makes a face, looking at me, as if he saw a ghost and tries to mumble something, and at first I'm confused, but when I see him clutching his fist to his chest I start panicking. "I can't breathe!" he barely mumbles. I quickly take my phone out and try calling 123, the emergency number, but the call doesn't connect. Probably the system is overwhelmed by too many calls. "Is there a doctor around?!" I try yelling, but it felt that with the chaos around us, I was like shouting in the void of space. I start panicking and tearing up, because I felt useless and helpless and I can't help him, while I see the desperation of his face. "Fabian, it's gonna be okay," I say and I'm glad that I can faintly hear some sirens.


Ander

It was a shitty shift. Not only Laura, my manager, told me only yesterday at 11pm, that she wants me in, she told me at first that she wants me for 4 hours, only to tell me that it's actually for 3 hours only. Jesus, I can't wait to escape this shitty job. Retail sucks. Working in retain in telecommunication is ever worse. I go into the back of the shop and take off my uniform top, a black polo T-shirt with the emblem of CorNet (Correntine Networks) on the chest and change in my black top, which had the emblem of a gym clothes company. It wasn't the most elegant of T-shirts, and I even used it quite a lot at the gym, but it had nice, thick cotton and fitted me well, so it was one of my favourites even on the street. I go out the shop after I say goodbye to Laura and to my other two colleagues who were hating their life being there, when my phone goes crazy.

I received a COAlert, a police issued alert which every sim card functional in Corrientes can receive, which tells me that there was a huge explosion in Plaza Mayor and there are many wounded and that people should stay away from the area. I never was religious, but probably for the first time in my life, I thank God that it was two days ago when me and Romina went there, and that I was working this morning, because I honestly too wanted to repeat the beach day. I opened up twatter, only to see #terrorismo and #bomba trending, which was even more chilling. I check the twats and it was a mixture of frustration, confusion, until people started twatting screenshots of a twat that was supposedly deleted by twatter of a terrorist group claiming the attack for what they called Correntine imperialism and Criollo neo-colonialism. My eyes fall on the Criollo part. For the first time in my life, I start to panic. You would expect a gay man to be used to this, but with a mix of strong anti-discrimination laws and my don't ask; don't tell policy, I managed to avoid any form of homophobia, but this hit me harder. Calling for the deaths of Criollos. I am one. Fabian is mestizo, but he's white passing. Dona Sabrina is one. I felt as if a heat wave was going through me. The last phrase hits me: "The fight for native freedom is the fight against criollo elitism!". Fighting against Criollo elitism by killing them.

I do my best shaking off all emotions that got a hold on me. I call Dona Sabrina, but it goes straight to voicemail. "Cuatro Es, por favor call me as soon as you turn on your phone and tell me you're fine," I say. Somehow, her going on voicemail relaxed me, because as much as she is a retiree, she's still very active on the mornings on weekdays, but prefers to enjoy sleeping until late on the weekends, and usually turns off her phone to not be disturbed. As much as it is counterintuitive, I feel not reaching her it's good. It means she's fine. I then try to call Fabian, but I receive an error when I press the call button: "Call cannot be initiated". I could feel my stomach knotting itself and my heart going crazy. I try again and I get the same error, and a second later I receive a call from Romina. It didn't initialise because of that.

"Hey," I say, but she interrupts me. "Ander..." she begins but her voice breaks down. "Please come to the Libertadores Hospital, Fabian's in bad shape," she says and I could hear a suspiration, followed by a sob. "Please don't tell me..." I start saying, but she interrupts me again. "We were at the Plaza Mayor. Please come quick," she says and the call dies. I could feel my heart going crazy, while a I felt my cheeks burning and sweat starting to form on my forehead. I start running out of the shopping centre, nearly hitting someone. I run down to the subway, and validate my pass, running down the escalator to the platform, hoping to catch the incoming train I was hearing. I reached it and I could see its headlights on the tunnel approaching, when an announcement was heard: "Dear Passengers, traffic on lines 4,6,7 and 8 has been suspended, because of the developing situation. We deeply apologise for the inconvenience."

I was glad that I had a direct line from here to the Libertadores, which was line 2, but when I entered the subway carriage and peeked at the map of the network, it was clear, all those lines met at the Plaza Mayor Station. The train, was as usual, overcrowded, and running to the station in the heat made it even worse. people were overwrought and jumpy. Everyone was talking about it, everyone was saying how bad it was, when I heard someone way that it killed 50 people and injured hundreds, I felt like I started hyperventilating.

The train went as normal for about five stations, and then, in the tunnel between the stations it stopped. It's ventilators stopped too and for a moment even the lights turned off. This made people outright angsty some even yelling. After a few seconds the lights came back on and the driver made an announcement apologising for the technical issues. But the train didn't move, it's ventilators didn't started back on. Standing like sardines in a can is bad, but when everyone is angry, jumpy, panicky, is even worse. I thought of calling Romina, but she use used the plural, 'we were at the Plaza Mayor'. It means she was with Fabian. Oh my god, she might have been hurt too, but if she was hurt badly, the hospital would have called, not her. Even so, I'd rather not bother her now. I then turn to call Fernando.

"Please tell me you're alright and safe," I say before even greeting him as he answers. "Oh my god, Ander, are you okay? your voice is cracking," he says. "Please tell me you're safe," I say again. "Yes, yes I am. I'm at home, watching the news on Telecor and swiping twatter," he says and I exhale deeply. "Are you alright?" he asks and I could feel the genuine concern in his voice. "Romina called me. She's at the Libertadores with Fabian. They were at the Plaza Mayor," I say and then I feel some bang from his side. "Sorry, sorry... I dropped the phone. They were there? Jesus... Maria," he mutters. "Can you please come? I'm going there too and I'm stuck on the subway in the tunnel right before the station and we're waiting for about fifteen minutes now and it just gets worse and worse," I say and this time I hear my voice cracking and tears forming up. I know Romina called, so for her is no urgency, and I know I can't do anything, but I can't cope with being so useless that I'm stuck in the subway between the stations, and it gets outright suffocating and the atmosphere is hostile too, with everyone angry and desperate. "I will, of course I will. I'm leaving the apartment now. I will need about 20 minutes to reach it," he says. "Ander, por favor, se fuerte, be strong, for them," he says and closes the call. His last phrase hit me and with barely any mobility to wipe my eyes without hitting someone around me, I just squeeze my eyes to stop the tearing up and slowly I just feel my previous sense of desperation replaced by anger and hate. Fucking hell, fucking train, fucking city, fucking terrorism, fucking fascists fuck them all!

The train finally moves, with the driver letting off another announcement apologising. In a few minutes is reaches the Carrera 31 Station and I get out and run out of it. The portal leading out of the station gets you out right in front of the Libertadores Hospital. The view was something otherworldly. Ambulances lining up at its two entrances and even more leaving. I run towards the entrance. At the reception, the woman barely cares what relation I have to anyone. She makes me write my name on a register, followed by my Personal Numeric Code, and the name of the person I visit, so I put Fabian Ortiz de Leon, even if a part of me wanted to write Romina Bertrani. She tells me that he is on the 4th floor, but I should take the stairs because the stretcher bearers are using all elevators. I storm, rushing towards the stairs, but I quickly slip and fall as someone just dropped a bag of physiological serum on the floor and it broke. I curse, and a nurse wanted to help me, but in a fraction of a second I jump up and start running towards on the stairs up towards the 4th floor.

After I reach it, my shoulder started feeling the previous fall, while my lungs were burning from all the effort since I started running from the shop. I see Romina on the hall and run towards her. "Ander!" she shouts as she goes in to hug me. "Are you alright?" I say and I look at her. "Oh my god," I mutter as I see the cuts on her arms and the bruises on her knees and elbows. "I'm fine. The bruises are from the fall, when the shockwave hit me, and the huts are because a window above was shattered and I had glass rain over me. But I'm fine. They took me in and extracted any shards that were in the cuts. It seems they're very superficial," she says, giving me a tired smile.

"What happened with Fabian?" I ask, readying myself to absolutely everything, especially after I saw on twatter videos and photos of the blast, which to everyone's shock was so strong that it even left a mushroom cloud behind. "He's fine. The blast threw him behind a car, which shielded him. Initially I thought that something was bad with his heart, but when we reached the hospital, they said it was a very bad panic attack," she says and I could see tears forming up in her eyes. "I felt so helpless and I thought I would see him die in front of my," she says, her voice cracking and crying, as I pull her in a hug, trying to comfort her. "I was already in shock, after the explosion, but seeing him clutching at his heart with an extreme panic on his face, which I thought I could feel, It was..." she said outright sobbing. "I felt like dying myself," she muttered. I pull her even closer and I could feel her crying on my right shoulder, holding my tight. "Everything is okay now?" I ask her after a few seconds. "Yeah, they gave him some injections, they told me what they were but I forgot, and now he's okay. Even fully talkative," she says, chuckling at the last remark.

We go in his hospital ward, which Fabian was sharing with three other persons, each with family around them. "My loves," he says happily but then starts coughing. I go to him and take a sit besides him, but he reaches besides me to hug me. "When I flew in the air into that car, I though I would die, and only the moments with you, querido, were flashing in front of my eyes," he says smiling. "Well, you really thought you would die, that's why you got such a horrid panic attack," I say. "You can't even imagine how it was, Ander," he says, this time seriously. "We were with our backs from it, leaving, wanting to get away, and then there was a flash, and a huge bang, and for a moment, I felt like I was in zero gravity, and I landed on a car. I pretty much left a dent in the side door and now I have a huge bruise that covers more than half of my back. Doctors said I was lucky the spine wasn't affected and there is no rib fracture, but let me tell you, it hurts like hell. And the smell... The smell that followed, or cordite and smoke and everything I feel like it's still lingering in my lungs," he says and like he just summoned it, a wave of coughing starts hitting him. "I'll go look for a nurse to bring you some water," Romina says and she rises and leaves us two alone.

Fabian grabs my arm and pulls me closer. "Truth is," he says. "It wasn't the explosion that got me the panic attack. I even managed to rise, as it seems the car sheltered me. It was Romina. She was all bruised and now her cuts were cleaned, but then, she was all bloodied, really badly and I panicked because I felt she was injured badly. I think that pushed me into it," he says. "It was horrible. The mere sight of seeing her like that. I felt like that whole bomb exploded inside me, not a few hundred meters away," he says and he clenches his fingers on my arm. "I felt like dying seeing her like that, and then when I started having the attack, my mind, went from bad to worse, because I felt like a useless fuck. I was supposed to protect her, yet here I was, clutching at my chest because I couldn't breath," he says. "Tio, calm down. Don't do this," I say. "If you want to relieve the scenes, do it with the therapist, so you won't develop PTSD, but don't go in the same line of thought you had which gave you the panic attack," I say trying to comfort him. "I know you care about her. It's shockingly clear," I say leaving out a laugh and he smiles too, which makes me happy. "But sometimes, life has its ways of leading us to all sorts of weird phases, which leaves out without any form of agency, and we just react and keep ourselves together. This was one of those events. Concentrate on the fact that both of you are alive and surprisingly well," I say. "Yes..." he mutters. "You know. Joking aside, life did actually flashbacked in front of my eyes, but the moment it ended, you know what thought remained in my mind?" he asks and I shake my head as I see he was literally waiting for me to react. "That I wasted a lot of it. And things like this, make you see that," he says. Romina came in with two glasses of water and she gave me one. I really love that she's this thoughtful. "Ander, there is someone outside to see you," she says.

I rise up from the seat, and go out, leaving her by his side. I go out and I see Fernando waiting outside. "Fer," I manage to say, but he just rushes in and embraces me, pulling me closer and kissing me. "I... when you called and heard your voice... my heart broke," he says. "I'm sorry, I now know it was a false alarm, but when Romina called, it seemed like he just went through the explosion and was also dying of a heart attack," I say still embracing him, resting my head on his shoulder and for the first time in the past hour or hour and a half I felt like finally relaxing and letting go, in his arms. "I know, I spoke with Romina," he says and he looks me in the eyes. His deep black eyes felt so deep compared to my blue-greenish ones. He then kisses my forehead and then rests his forehead on mine, holding my face with his arms, while I embrace him, pulling him closer. It's not something I used to do, especially in public, but I'd rather die now than lose this. "I know," he says again. "But when I heard your voice, something in me broke and it's the first time I feel something like this for someone and I simply could not keep away. I wanted to be by your side and I wanted to be sure that I do everything, so I will not see those beautiful eyes so sad, ever again," he says and I nearly start tearing up and he kisses me again.

Romina plops her head out of the ward, and knocks on the door frame. "Sorry to interrupt," she says. We retract from the embrace and I turn towards her, beside Fernando. I could still feel his arm resting around my shoulders. "You're not interrupting anything," he says and I nod. "You never will," he adds smiling and she gives a weird grimace. "I spoke to the doctor. It seems that they are really desperate to get light cases discharged to keep the hospital ready for whatever else might be, so Fabian signed off his things. If you could wait for a bit until they prescribe some drugs for us, then we can go together to the pharmacy and home if you want," she says. "They're already discharging him?" Fernando asks. "Yeah, they did blood tests and an EKG before you came and everything seemed fine, besides the ugly bruise on his back, but at least he gets to boast that he destroyed a car by himself," she says shaking her head. "Do you wanna come to our place after all that?" I ask as I turn towards Fernando and he just nods and pulls me closer.
 
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Corrientes

Elder Statesman
Joined
Jul 17, 2010
Messages
2,375
Location
Bucharest
Capital
Callao
Nick
Ovi
Romina
15th of August 2022


The Assumption of Mary was upon us. It seems that normally, here in Corrientes is was a huge holiday, akin to what the Natalians and the Feds have as Thanksgiving Day up in Westernesse, with families coming together for large diners. But this holiday was, at least in Callao and in the Districto Capital, overshadowed by the events from two days ago. The city was reeling and while it survived it, it really felt that it was licking its wounds, in no mood for celebratory dinners. Even so, by the 2nd day, I was woken up by continuous car honks, so it feels things are slowly returning too normal.

Yesterday was a weird day. I could sleep, just running all the images in my mind and spent most of the night with Fabian and Dona Sabrina. She gave us some of her pot and that calmed us down. Sunday passed quickly, with Ander and Fernando going out to do some shopping and then cooking for us, while Dona Sabrina pretty much just standing with us, as if she could guard up from whatever could be a repeat of Saturday. Even so, by Sunday evening, Fabian felt like he was going crazy and started to do his translations. Even if the agency took the workload off him, he asked to keep the ENA translations to Engellexic, as he felt doing some work would keep his mind off from just over processing the previous day. And of course, I promised, so I had to deliver. We worked in the evening, while Dona Sabrina was watching TV in our apartment, and Ander and Fernando just coming in and out, as if they had to check on us on every hour.

"Gracias," said Fernando, the next day, on Monday the 15th, as in the morning, both of us were seated at their laptops and started working. I took the normal chair and had him seated on a stool, because of the ugly bruise that covered half of his back. "Hey, I promised I would help, hadn't I? What kind of a person would I be if I turn my back on you?" I say and he smiles. "At least your back is fine," he says with an exaggerated moaning, which makes both of us laugh. "Plus, if we started yesterday, we should finish it off," I add, but he comes closer to me. "No, it's not about that. I want to thank you... for everything... for being here," he says and I turn to him. There's less than 10 centimetres between our faces and I feel his dark eyes locking into my own gaze. He trimmed his beard shorter than usual a few days ago, still not as short as Ander's three day stubble, but it's still very short compared to what I was used to. Even so, it still gave him an older, more mature vibe. "I know you wanted to come here a year ago to escape tanta mierda, such fuckery, and seeing everything around us going to hell... I feel... I fear that you would be thinking of going to your family to Rheinbund," he said and I could observe a certain worry and even sadness in him about it. "Is this what concerned you the most regarding the attack?" I asked and he nodded. "I couldn't sleep thinking that you'd want to leave us," he said. "Fabian..." I say, leaving his name in the air for a bit. "That is..." I pause again. "Honestly, there is nowhere else I'd rather be than here," I say and I feel his face relaxing, even allowing a shy smile. "I'd rather be nowhere than here with you," I add. If Saturday taught me anything, is that life is fragile and I'd rather regret being rejected than look back and regret I didn't the courage to make my feelings known. He smiles and just comes in to kiss me. I respond to his kiss, and to be honest, it is the first real kiss since my and my first husband decided to separate and it felt like it unleashed a whirlwind of emotions in me, as if I tried my best for a few years to just make myself deaf to such feelings. His beard prickled my lips, and that was something I really forgot about it, but I also felt I couldn't get enough of it. I respond stronger to his kiss, putting my left hand on his cheek, as if to better guide him, but instinctively I put my right arm around his neck, resting it on his upper back and I could feel him getting tense, trying to suppress a groan of pain, which quickly made me to back down.

"Sorry, I'm deeply sorry," I say but he still looks in my eyes and smiles. "Don't be," he says and he comes him for a kiss again, but the door opening, makes us back off. It was Dona Sabrina, entering the apartment, bringing in some arepas filled with eggs and mushrooms. "Ay, you're already working? I was hoping you haven't started yet... you known, being the Assumption of Mary and all. I brought you some breakfast," she says. We decide to take a break, and go into the kitchen to eat, while she makes us some coffee. It's interesting how the attack fully activated the motherly instincts of Dona Sabrina, as if she was more than just our landlady, but as much as I still remember myself that she's just that, I always find it fascinating that both Fabian and Ander go as far as calling her an "adoptee mother". Adoptee, not adopter, Ander always made sure to point out. She chatted some more with us, funnily wanted to hear the gossip about Fernando, which she said she always felt that Ander was shielding from her, but truth be told, as much as I myself wanted to tell her more, it's not that I know much about him, other than he seems very taciturn and always looks like he's brooding about something, but even so, it seems he goes great lengths for Ander, and I always felt that it was enough for me. I'd rather allow him to open up rather than force him and make everything weird. Dona Sabrina drank coffee with us, and then announced us that she will be going to church, as "that's what should be done today", but we weren't really religious to care that much, so we allowed her to go.

For the next few hours, we continue translating the documents from the ENA contracts from Josefino to Engellexic. We didn't really talked much, other than from time to time I tell Fabian different song titles to put on the queue, as I always preferred to work with some background noise, and if that is music, it's even better. Funnily how most of my music tastes too have been changed in a year in Corrientes. I used to listen to mostly Engellexic music, and in my club have some Zaran music too, but it always was Engellexic which dominated, and now, I barely listen to it. About 90% of my current playlists are made out of Tiburano songs, from Occidentia, with some Radilan and Zaran ones here and there. Working so intensively on what I felt should be some boring commercial contracts, made me lose track of the time.

There was a loud knock on the door, and it was clear it wasn't Dona Sabrina this time. The door opens and Ander plops his head in. "I hope I don't interrupt," Ander says and he just allows himself in. "You're not interrupting anything, my love," Fabian says as he turns from the laptop. "And you never will," I add, smirking. Ander doesn't really get it, but behind him comes Fernando. "That's my line," he says with his typical stern face and for a moment I really though he is angry at me for mocking him a bit, but after a few seconds he gives me a big smile, chuckling. "What's up?" Fabian asks. "I heard you didn't want to go to Church with Cuatro Es," Ander says. He always referred to Dona Sabria as Cuatro Es, Four S, because of all her four names starting with the same letter. "Don't tell me you went," I say and Ander smirks. "Look, I like the Pope, but that's not really enough for me to actually put myself through Mass," he says. "So, in the end, what's the deal?" Fabian asks. "This is actually an intervention," Ander says, with probably the most serious tone I ever heard him.

I look at him confused. "You haven't gone out the apartment since the event. I know it's hard to go out in this crazy world, but you can't closet yourself in like this," Ander says. "Plus, when did you eat the last time?" Fernando asks. "Dona Sabrina just brought us some arepas," I say, as if it just happened half an hour ago. "When was this?" Fernando asks looking towards the kitchen from the living room we were all in. "I don't know, at 9?" Fabian says and Ander made a face as if he saw two ghosts. "Do you know what time it is?" he asks really weirded out. I take my phone and look and my mouth falls open. It's 4:30pm. "Exactly," Ander says pointing to me. "You survived something horrific, but you survived it and now it's time to help you live a little," he says. "No, Ander, I can't, we have work to do," Fabian tried to say in some whiny voice. "Oh, I know they wanted to take the workload off you, but you asked for them to keep it," he says. Fabian's face showed pure surprise, looking at him and he just nods towards me. "That's true, let's be honest. Getting some fresh air and some food won't be bad for us," I say. Fabian tried to protest some more, but when I rose from the chair at the desk and closed off my laptop, it seems it was all clear.

Ander went with Fabian to his room, to aid him in dressing up. It's not like he really needs help, because it's just that some moves that are done by the back muscles hurt, but even so, I think it's necessary in times like this to feel that there is someone there always ready to help you. Plus, I think Fabian preferred Ander over Fernando, because I feel the latter intimidates him. Fernando came with me and waited by my door as I dressed up. I put some jeans, going for long ones, rather than shorts, not really wanting to show off my own bruises I have on my knees. I put a white shirt on. I was thinking of going with something long sleeved, but the ones I had were from my days in Zara, as Corrientes' tropical climate never made me feel cold. "Should I go like this?" I ask Fernando as I open up the door and let him in my room. He looked at me from top to bottom. "There's no need to dress up too much," he says. "This is how I'm going," he gestures at himself. He was wearing some grey cotton gym shorts and a simple black short sleeved t-shirt, with white models resembling fern leaves on it. "Also, knowing your bruises, I wouldn't go for skinny jeans. I'd rather not open the wounds," he said pointing at my knees. I nod, as if it only now came to my mind and I go back into my wardrobe and change the jeans and the shirt with a wavy green summer dress. "Perfect, you're quite beautiful in it," he says, giving me a thumbs up. What I always found peculiar about him is how he always spoke so monotonous. Jesus, if you told me I'm beautiful, show it with some emotion in your voice, not just a shy smile and a thumbs up, even so, that shy smile I got from him feels like a huge victory.

We leave the apartment and go out on the street. It was Fernando that led the whole group. Me with Ander were doing some small talk, while Fernando was giving off a smirk here and there when Ander was saying something funny. Fabian still felt like he was sulking. "Are you alright?" I ask him, and he just nodded. "Yeah... yeah, everything is fine..." he said after a pause. "Where are we going?" he asked, especially when instead of turning on Calle 8, we cross it. "To the Subte," Fernando says. "Yeah, okay, I thought of that, but I meant the destination," Fabian insists. "It's a place which I always loved. It's a bit touristy usually, but I always liked it. I used to go there every time I felt like my world was going down the drain, after I moved to Callao," Fernando says and Fabian just shrugs, muttering something for himself. He clearly didn't like the answer, but it also felt like he had to energy to protest. We go down into the Subte (subway) station, and jump on the line 6 train, going downriver. We were quite quiet in the train and it surprised me how empty it was. Well, it wasn't empty empty, more like about half full, but when you got used to the subway being overcrowded, you start to find even a little breathing space being something out of order. But even with the quietness, I didn't find it as an awkward silence. I observed that while Ander was absently looking either at the map of the network, which was between two windows or into the blackness of the tunnel, Fernando was holding with one arm from the bar, while another he had resting around Ander's hips, and from time to time he was sneaking in some looks towards him, showing very shy and slight smiles, which I found really sweet. It's clearly by now, that Fernando has literally three modes of functioning: taciturn brooding, sweet little smiles towards Ander and big smiles when he makes fun of me from time to time.

When the Estacion Santander was announced, Fernando pointed us towards the door, as if telling us that here we will get off. I looked into Fabian's eyes, and for a quick moment he locked gaze with me and smiled, which made me happy, seeing that he doesn't feel this outing that much as a chore. "Ever been to Cafe del Mar?" Fernando asks. Ander nods, Fabian doesn't gesture a thing and I just shake my head. "It's a nice eatery on one of the bastions of the walls of the old, colonial town," Ander says, reading the confusion in my eyes. "Yeah, the Josefinos, when they reached the estuary of the Catatungo, they built old Callao, and to avoid pirate and Engellexic attacks, in the 1700s, they built a huge start fortress, which at its time was the biggest outside Gallo-Germania. In time the city expanded and the fort wasn't needed. It was partly demolished in the 1800s, but a few bastions remain, and on one of those, in the 1990s a restaurant was built. It's no big deal, but while tourists use to flood it, as it offers the perfect scenery for their pictures with the old town and all that, I saw it was huge for the locals especially in the early evening," Fernando said. I looked at Fabian, and maybe I was projecting but I feel his inner hipster was hating this, as he found it too touristy.

When we went out the portal of the subway, I got why people were crazy after it, especially now. The sun started setting, starting to give off golden tints to the few clouds on the sky. The station was situated in a park and in front of us was Avenida Santander, which was going right along the beach, and to our left was the ramp leading to the bastion. People were probably like us, a bit unsure at first if they really wanted to go out, so there were only a few tables occupied at the Cafe del Mar, but the traffic on Avenida Santander really showed that the city was returning back to normal. Fernando talked a bit to the hostess and managed to get us a table right by the bastion's seawall. I was quite enamoured with the view, as the sun was slowly setting, with the golden hour beginning, while also shimmering on the Azure Sea's waves.

I checked the menu. "You said you came here often, what do you recommend," I asked Fernando. "I'd try the cocktails, they're all really nice and as for food, always go for fish around these parts," he said with a smile. I looked again at the setting sun which now went past a small cloud, which covered it a bit, but also created that ray effect, making the scene even better. I then turned to Fabian, who I see that he too was smiling, and I wondered again, how much of this country and this city am I missing, just because I was swamping myself in work.

"Can I ask you something personal?" I say as I looked towards Fernando. He gave me a slight smile and nodded. "You said you were coming here when your world was sinking. What was that about, if you don't mind?" I ask, really hoping that he will not answer with a question or make some fun or something else, but I think too that Saturday affected him too. I nodded again and I could see Ander was paying quite a lot of attention to him too, while Fabian was grimacing because of his back laying on the chair's backrest.

"I'm not born here, in Corrientes. I'm actually from Monterrey, well, what's today Los Altos. My dad was Correntino and my mother was Regiomontana," he says and something shocked me. He used the past. "Wait...You mean..." I say and he nodded. Ander was listening, and even if his mood too was sober, I felt he wasn't shocked of it. No, he clearly knew. "Can I ask... what happened?" I say, but Fernando lets out a slight chuckle. "I was in the middle of telling the story," he says giving me one of his big smiles. I start to understand his body gestures by now, and chuckles followed by big smiles clearly are his way of saying 'Fuck's sake Romina, get a grip'.

"So yeah, I was born in Embarcadero, and when I was a kid, I haven't really thought of it, but back in the late 1990s, early 2000s, looking back I really think we were the only middle class family on our street, as I remember my dad was the only one who had a car. I spent pretty much a normal childhood there, with my mother having a guitar and teaching me how to play it, and besides that, as a kid I was playing football a lot with the local kids. I remember, and it shocks me now, there were two Ypu native boys playing with us and I always remembered that they were so poor, that they barely had a single set of clothes, which their mother always said that she doesn't want them to dirty them up, so she was sending them to play football with us butt naked. Of course, we were kids, 5 to 8 years old, and literally nobody was batting an eye. And at one point, I was 12, and my sister was 10. It was 2007. My father received an offer to work back in Corrientes. He was a construction engineer and he received an offer to be moved from Embarcadero to Camiaco, where he was supposed to work in building a bridge or something like that over the Catatungo. We packed our bags, and left, but it didn't last long. About a month after we moved in, my parents went to shop for groceries. I remember my mom insisting we should come too, but I just didn't want, preferring to stay in the house and my sister started copying me, and after some arguing, they allowed us to stay at home, for an hour or two until they came back," he told his story in his typical fashion of monotonous voice and inscrutable gaze. "Problem was they never came back," he then added after a pause, this time biting his lower lip and its was the first time I ever say him vulnerable.

It shocked me and I was ready to say something, but the waitress came to our table. I decided to order something that would give me some homevibes, so I went for an aperol spritz. Something very Radilan, but popular in Zara too. Fernando and Ander ordered Viche, a typical cocktail based on sugarcane distilate with lime, but much lighter than the Aguardiente we had on the beach, while Fabian went for a beer. For food we ordered some fried fish, with patacones, which are friend plantain slices and coconut rice. Before she left, Fernando also asked the waitress if she could bring an extra pillow, and when we all looked at him weird, he explained it was for Fabian's back, which shocked me, as I though I was the only one observing Fabian's previous grimace.

"So... what happened?" I asked, hoping that the waitress didn't break the spell and Fernando was still ready to open up. "A truck driver who lost control happened. Crashed into them on the wrong lane at full speed. I was told they died on the spot. It's... it's quite bad for a 12 year old to hear that," he added and for the first time, I see him avoiding everyone's gaze, as he just looks into the horizon, at the setting sun and the rainbow of orange, gold, red and purple which it painted on the clouds and on the reflections on the sea. "Me and my sister were taken to an orphanage in Cartagena. And it was... bad, very bad. The conditions were extremely shitty. Very little food, the workers acted like they were exasperated by our mere presence, and the older ones acted like the kings there. And funnily, it's not the guys who were the worst, but the girls. With some beatings, I managed to get to a point where I could be left alone, but the girls acted like monsters with my sister, continuously terrorising her. Everything changed in 2010. I was beginning high school that autumn, and a family came and decided to take us in foster care. We moved to Callao and I started high school here, at the Ulisse Zorzi, nearby, so the Cafe del Mar became the best spot for me and my classmates to skip school and just come here. Back in the day they didn't even care if we were minors, they were selling us alcohol and cigarettes like crazy," he says smirking and I shake my head smiling at him. "Then, that family had a child and it they gave us up, in 2012. I was 16. Me and my sister were sent back to an orphanage, this time here, in Callao, which was decent, much better than the hell in Cartagena. But it didn't last long. A new family came up: Torrez. They were very close to the administration of the orphanage, so they were allowed to take kids out for a day in the city to know them better in a much more... normal environment. And they took me and my sister first to the zoo, and then at Cafe del Mar, and they bought us food and a cheese cake for desert, and when the day was ending, and the sun was setting like this, the father, Juan David, bought me a beer and asked me if I want me and my sister to live with them," he says, this time smiling, and that's when I observe that his big smiles aren't reserved just to mock me.

"I lived with them for 2 years. Came out to them, and after the shitty environment in the orphanages and the first family, they accepted me and when they group hugged me, I felt like they really loved me. The mother, Fátima, was loving music, like my real mother and she saw I liked it and pushed me to go to the conservatoire. And on my 18th birthday, she bought me an electronic keyboard. It was my major gift, as you usually give something grand when a kid reaches the majority age, and it was also our parting gift, as I finished high school and got admitted to the conservatoire here in the city and I moved to a student dorm. My sister still lived two more years with them," he says, continuing to smile.

Our food came, and we start digging in. "They still call me every 2nd day or so to see what I'm up too, and it's with Fátima's help that after I graduated, I got an interest in ethnography and started this masters, and it's with her help that I managed to get to earn a steady living too, as a guitar or keyboard teacher. She is a music teacher at a high school, and when students come to her asking if she can teach them to play instruments, she sends them to me," he says.

"What about your sister?" I ask, by now very much into his stories. "Ah, Alicia is living her best life. I took a few years break before starting the masters, but she did them in one go, so she's done with hers. She studied agronomy and then did a masters in botany and now works at a research institute in Cumana, and just a few days ago she got engaged," he says.

"Well, here's to her," I say rising up my glass and the others rise it up too. "Thanks," Fernando says. "Fer, I have an idea," I say, but then I stop, eyeing Fabian, who alerts up. "Well, it's not mine, it's actually Dona Sabrina's," I say and Ander smirks. "How much do you pay in your rent now?" I ask. "Well, it's quite shitty now, because I'm 27 and in the 1st year of masters I lived in a student down so I was literally paying the equivalent of 25EM a month on everything, but now, I'm past the age threshold and I lost all rights to live in one, so I managed to get an apartment, but it's quite shitty, 300EM a month and my flatmates always moan when I have a student come over," he says and I feel I could even head some disgust in his voice. "Well, Dona Sabrina was moaning that she can't find a flatmate for Ander, and it would be 200EM with everything, utilities included," I say. "Only 200?" he asks and then looks at Ander. "I mean... I feel I should talk with you first," he says towards him, but Ander was just smiling like crazy. "Aaaaaaah, he fucking loves it, look at him!" Fabian nearly shouts, and I loved that he started enjoying himself, rather than sulk like before. "Of course I would!" he says and gives Fernando a quick kiss.

The sun was now down, hiding behind the horizon, but its light could be visible on the sea. Orange hour gave way to purple hour. "If my parent's story and even Saturday ever taught me something, is that sometimes you do need to have the courage to live life, because death is the destination for all of us, and I'd rather regret doing too much shit rather than regret I wasted it," says Fernando smiling and I look towards them and I see them hand in hand, resting on Ander's chair armrest. I nodded and looked towards Fabian and hold his hand too, and he looked at me smiling. "Shall we order another round? We fucking survived terrorism, it's time to allow ourselves to live," Fabian says.
 
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Corrientes

Elder Statesman
Joined
Jul 17, 2010
Messages
2,375
Location
Bucharest
Capital
Callao
Nick
Ovi
Ander
17th of August 2022


I hate CorNet. Correntine Networks my ass... When companies start to use Engell names just to feel fashionable it should be a red flag, they're clearly mierda de mierda. As if retail isn't a shitty work domain, when it's in telecommunication, it's even worse, because none of these idiots who sign contracts to get their phones actually read through or actually listen to you, when you tell them that no, besides San Jose, Gran Occidentia and Los Altos, we as a country don't have great benefices like no roaming taxes. You will have to pay, so if you were charged 15EM per megabyte because you were in Pelasgia, it's not my fault, comemierda! And then there's Laura, my beloved managed, who does her best to try push broadband contracts on everyone. Too bad I'm actually dying of cringe when I hear her pitch on it and how she wants me to say it's supposed to be a backup for the other broadbands they have. While this already makes me die of cringe, what is shocking is how many actually fall for it. And don't get me started on the predatory behaviours they have. Hiding real discounts customers would be getting, and just randomly adding secondary numbers to their accounts so we can say we did new contracts to get bonuses, while customers all get scammed. I fucking hate it. I hate them and Laura especially for forcing me to do this. I'd rather not have a bonus for smashing my target, but I feel we're reaching the "you really need to improve, if not we might terminate the contract" territory.

I leave the shop floor, happy that the day finished, and I in the back, to change and go home. The idea of going home gets me quite hyped and excited as its also the day Fernando signs his contract with Dona Sabrina, to move in. I can't believe I finish work and I'm hyped for actually doing some work by aiding him in transporting his stuff. Maybe I can convince Dona Sabrina to lend me her ENA Selva to make the transport easier. It's not actually that fun to make about 3 taxi rides only with luggage from one part to another. I rush by past Laura's desk in the back, ready to jump out of the cursed CorNet polo shirt, when I could hear her honeyed, yet always passive aggressive voice.

"Ander, I sent you the numbers of 10 customers on your email. I want you to call them this evening," she says. "Espera, que? My shift it's over," I moan, but she didn't care. "I know, that's why you'll have to do it from home. One of them is a big company, so we can get a total of about 50 contract upgrades from them and sort out our shop's target for the month. I will want you to write down what you offer the and show me tomorrow," she says with an unabated voice. "Oh come on, Laura, I'll call them tomorrow," I start saying, but she shuts me up with a gesture. "No, no no, tomorrow might be too late. I want you to tell me tomorrow that they agreed to come in shop, because if the company will accept your offers, we will need to request all the phones for them, and there will be some time before they arrive," she says, not even raising her head from her laptop. "So, tomorrow I want the list of offers you made them," she said.

I nod and grumble, hating her and CorNet's business schemes even more. You know those Tiburan curses from antiquity, where they took a tin tablet and scribbled on it stuff like "may the goats eat your dick"? I was outright thinking of them and wondering if such Tiburan curses worked, because clearly some CEO or the board of directors of this hellish corporation deserve it. Resigning from this shit would be the best thing that would ever happen to me. Maybe I'll even recover the sanity Fabian said that I start to lose.

I change from the uniform polo shirt, and decide I should take it home to wash it and then leave the shop. I text Fernando first. Just left, coming home, can't wait for you to open the door, I text, but then I decide that it's too cheesy. Just left, can't wait to arrive home. Are you done with your lessons? I text him. He slept last night at my place and he messaged his students that starting today, mine will be the new address. Fernando's move might mean that randomly on my days off, I'll be flooded with guitar or keyboard music, but who cares, at least I'll have him around even more, and to be honest, I start to wonder if I'm obsessed or this is just the normal honeymoon phase, because I feel I can't get enough of him. The simple idea that waking up with him besides me, even if he officially will live in the other bedroom of the apartment, made me smile like an idiot and I just hoped I won't make eye contact with someone on the street to weird them out. Yeah, I had Lupita over for guitar, but she just left. Can't wait to see you, he texted back, with a smirking emoji. I kid you not, if I could ever be even more excited to go home, I would be.

I take the Transmilenio bus, whose specially isolated lane allowed it to quickly crisscross the city without getting caught in the traffic jams of the evening rush hour, which to be fair, were quite horrific. To from the shopping mall where my store was located back to Bocagrande, home, I needed half an hour with the Transmilenio, but if I would take the car, it would take over an hour in the morning or the evening. I was listening to some Josefino reggaeton on the bus, the Rudolfo Caranza station came up and I jumped off the bus. My phone vibrated and I opened it up, and not wanting to be judged as a thirsty bitch, I really hoped Fernando would be sending me some nudes, along the lines of, 'I'm waiting for you', but it was Fabian.
Okay, so, some stuff happened, he texted and at first, my typical self just went crazy thinking of all sorts of weird crazy stuff. What hit me most was that the first thing that came to my mind a was if everything was right and nice with Fernando. Me and Romina. We kissed, right before you two came over to take us to the bastion, he continued, and that made me smile. It was literally something that while I wasn't expecting, it didn't surprise me, and I was just happy it wasn't something bad. That's actually really nice, I text back, trying to be supportive, although I don't get what's so special. There's more... When we returned, we also slept together and now I feel that we're in a grey area, and things are weird, he texted back. Fuck's sake... It seems that the Tiburan blood of the Radilans was still quite strong and very... passionate. Fabian was mestizo, with a mixture of Radilan blood with some extra local mestizos from around Villa Tunari, but it seems the Tiburan blood was easy to take over. Romantically, passionate and at times apocalyptic, what can I say? Congrats. Truth be told, she's hot... if I'd be interested in her in such way, I mean. I really like her, I say but he texted back quickly, as if he just waited for me to answer back, just to see if I'm close to the phone. No, but things are weird. Two evenings ago, it was all nice and now we just talk monosyllabically to each other, if that's even possible, he texted back and I smirked. We're you really that shit in bed? I write, but I decide to delete it, as it was too much and he clearly was in a vulnerable position. I decide to take the mature road. You need to talk it out. If it was just a one night stand, things wouldn't have been weird afterwards, but one of you clearly expected more, hence the weirdness. You need to talk with her and set things straight, to see if you need some extra boundaries or if you need to actually disband them, I write and I was quite proud of myself with it, but I put the telephone in my pocket. Fabian's drama can wait, as I reached the building and for the first time I will have Fernando open the door to my apartment, my home... our home.

But I unlock the door and there's a deafening silence inside the apartment. I come in happy and Fernando, who was in the lounge, watching something on NATFLICK, rises up and meets me up on the entry hallway. "Hola, cariño," I say quite excited as I put my arms around his neck and kiss him, but I could feel something is awry. Something's bothering him. He greets me back, and not only kisses me back, but takes the whole lead, hugging my tightly and pushing himself in me that I nearly lose my balance and fall on the shoe cabinet by the door. "Wow, that's quite something. I didn't expect that, but I loved it," I say laughing and he gives me a weird, shy smile, something that he felt more like what he gave Romina than me. I start to panic. Even in his kiss, if it's even possible I could feel the muscles of his face all tense, as if he tries to smile, but its an effort, not natural and organic, or maybe I'm projecting. "Everything okay?" I ask and he just nods, with a stern face. "Yes..." he says. "I hope," he adds after a slight pause. "A letter came in for you," he says, pointing to an envelope I could see on the kitchen table. "From the Ministry of Defence," he says. I feel my heart sinking. I already know what it is. But... it's too early, It was supposed to happen at the end of October.

I give Fernando a quick kiss to reassure him that everything will be fine, and I go to the kitchen to open the envelope. It had the header of the Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces and it was even addressed extremely formally to "Subteniente Ander Alejandro Suarez Blanco". I read it closely and I was right. Nothing surprising, besides the early call. It was a reincorporation letter. It should have taken place in October, but it seems they just went full on with it and wanted me earlier. At least they even went to the effort to try and explain why it's so early, stating that it's because of the recent attack, coupled with the Anti-Banditry campaign in Los Altos, the revolution in Gran Occidentia and the general tensions between CETO and the Gothic Sea Pact.

I throw the letter back on the kitchen table, and move to my room where I throw on the floor my backpack. Fernando takes the letter, and then follows me, reading through it. "Can we enjoy this last evening and night together?" I say and he just comes to me and hugs me, nodding. I decide that I want something to relax me, and a bath would be the best. I go to the bathroom, and turn on the faucet on some warm water, not too hot, with how humid tropical days in Callao are, but something above lukewarm.

"Hey, look at the bright side," I say as I undress, and Fernando who does the same just smirks. He goes in first and I follow him, pretty much resting my legs on the wall, because the bathtub is too small for the two of us, and the back of my head on his chest. "That is will finally be quiet not only on this apartment, but the whole storey?" he asks chuckling and resting my head on his chest I could feel his heart beating. "You're funny. But don't be," I say and he laughs this time. "No, I'm happy that I do this than calling fucking CorNet customers. Fucking Laura and the shitty corporation she sold her soul to," I say cussing her. "Hey, don't worry, you'll be back eating shit for them in two weeks," Fernando says. "Yeah, but in two weeks, I'll be back to you too," I say and I raise my head to kiss him and I end up just kissing his chin awkwardly, because, like I said, the bathtub was too small for the both of us and we both started laughing, before he adjusts his position a bit and kisses me.

"Yeah, just two weeks," he says brooding. "What's up?" I ask. "I too was an unlucky veinte por ciento," he says. "Not border guards, like you, but tanks," he continues. "I didn't know that," I say. "Yeah, I never really cared that much of it, but now, we share this thing too," he says, taking my hand is his and crossing our fingers. "Yeah... at least, like me you were in only for a year, as we were both admitted to university," I say and pause a little. "Where did they send you?" I ask. "Base 143832, meaning pretty much in joder Gran Sabana, between Cumana and Yape, so close to here, but for fuck's sake, the Sabana is dreadful," he says and I tried to follow his voice. With my own position, I couldn't see the small changes of the muscles around his mouth to read him, so I tried to concentrate to try reading him, and to my own approval, he seemed quite relaxed. "Yeah, temperatures rising to 40 degrees by midday, then going down to 15 at night. No trees, besides bushes and shrubs, and thus no shade at all, and of course, supreme humidity, that in the afternoon you feel like suffocating. Honestly, if someone invades Corrientes through the Gran Sabana, I'd just pull a scorched earth policy and let them die trying to cross that hell scape," he says chuckling. "And what were you?" I ask. "Tank driver, at first, and then after I finished uni, they made me a tank commander, at the recalls. So yeah, here you have Subteniente Fernando Manuel Rivera Gálvez, tank commander, but only at the recalls, not at the main part of instruction," he says laughing and I offer him a salute, but end up splashing around, making both of us laugh. "Yeah, such a shitty system," I murmur. "At the main instruction, they put us on the border with Gran Occidentia, and I kid you not, but back in 2014, when I first went through it, I was jealous of the Gran Occidentians crossing the border. They were so richer than us, buying all sorts of shits to do business, and doing their best to bribe us. I was bringing my mom about two bottles of perfume on every leave, and my dad either fancy Josefino cigars or even a watch once," I say shaking my head in disbelief. Fernando only laughs. "I never took you for a sleazy one. Should I send you my Christmas list?" Fernando asks laughing.

We enjoyed the rest of the bath talking some. We then went to eat something, with Fernando rushing to warm up in the microwave some of the coconut rice with chicken I made yesterday, while I was cutting some tomatoes and onions, for a salad. My phone vibrated and I checked it. A text, from Laura. Hey, sorry to be an annoyance, but did you manage to call them and tell them to come to the shop? I literally growled at the text and I just answered back with a photo of the letter, but only with the header of the ministry and my full name and rank. Pretty much my way of saying, fuck off, shittier things are upon us. "I really need to escape that shithole of a job," I say and stop at first, thinking I thought out loudly. "How's the bar thing planning going?" Fernando asked. "I need Romina for it. She has experience in it. I will need to make her get out of her shell, and start dreaming again of doing what she loved," I say. Fernando nods and we begin eating, when I head some knocks on the door.

I look at Fernando and I just shrug, do as he wants. I would have usually opened up with no issue, but I feel that I need to do an extra effort to make him feel that this is now his apartment too. "It's open," he shouts and as I turn I see Romina plopping her head. "Sorry to interrupt," she says. "Just come in," I say, trying to break the weird thing of interruption-never interruption Romina and Fernando have. "I have a problem. Fabian is weird," she says as she comes into the kitchen and then stops on her tracks. "What's this?" she asks as she sees the letter from the ministry. "Oh my god!" she yearly shouts as she reads through it. Her shock takes me by surprise.

"You're getting conscripted?!" she nearly yells, and I gesture her to calm down. "Not conscripted, reincorporated, it's a different thing. I was conscripted, now until I'm 35 I have to do these shits," I say as I finish eating and I turn to her, seeing her completely lost and confused. A part of me didn't have the energy to explain it all, and I hoped Fernando would jump in, but he was just finishing his food and started looking at me, expecting me to say anything.

"Romina, you know I love you, but get a grip. You didn't observe me leaving for about two weeks a few times last year you were living here?" I ask and I could feel her still being confused. "Vaguely, but to my excuse, we weren't this close back then," she says. "So what's this whole thing?" she asks. "We're what in Corrientes is called the 'Desafortunado veinte por ciento', the unlucky twenty percenters," Fernando says in what I found a weird way, like an old wise man, who tries to explain something and leaves behind him more questions than answers and I just shake my head, looking at an even more confused Romina.

"Okay, so, unsure how it was in Zara, but I think they had conscription too. Back in the day, when our fathers or grandfathers were 18, like today, conscription was a thing. The difference is, that back then, Corrientes' population was smaller, clearly not as huge as today, so when a generation reached 18, they took all boys for military instruction, either for 9 months or a year and a half," I begin explaining. "The difference is the studies. If you get admitted to a university, you do 9 months and you end up an officer, if you stop with the highschool, you end up a soldier, NCO at best, but only after a year and a half," Fernando chimes in this time. "But in time the population grew, and whomever controlled the state, after 1985, mostly the MNR and the Herreras, pretty much preferred to keep the investments in military infrastructure low, and with the huge population, they developed a weird system. They randomise the people who get called up. And at this point, they call up a random 20% out of every generation," I say. "And we were part of the unlucky 20%," Fernando adds. "And now, up until 35, every 3 months you get a reincorporation call for 2 weeks, to get used again to running in the mud, getting talked shit and shooting guns, or if you're in my case, check car boots and look threatening, or in Fernandos' case... unsure," I say and stop. "What does the tank commander actually do?" I ask and right when he's about to answer Romina interrupts.

"Wait so... One in five Correntinos get called for military service and have to go through such reincorporation calls every seasion?" she asks and I nod. "That's shit," she mutters and we both nod this time. "Is Fabian too one of them?" she asks and I shake my head. "Nah, he was part of the mainstream guys, they took in only the maricas," I say, pointing to me and Fernando and we all laugh at it. But even so, I could feel Romina being taken aback by it all, which surprised me, as I thought she knew of them, as I went through three such recalls since she moved in. I also found it funny that she was even more distraught than Fernando by the order, because what is annoying is that such orders are issued in the morning and the army has its own postal service making sure that by the end of the day you receive their letters, and from there they give you 48 hours to present yourself at the base.

"If you want to raise my morale, I need you to do something for me," I say looking at Romina. "I need to escape CorNet and I'm sure that you need to escape your own retail dead end job, let's just do that club thing," I say, this time gesturing. "Oh, Ander, we don't have..." she begins to say. "We might have the place. I contacted some people, but I will need something from you. Write me a business plan. Something great that would make even the bankers who would give us a credit go like 'whoa, this is awesome'," I say and she is against confused. "Why?" she asks and is ready to say more but I interrupt her. "My family... well, family is used very loosely here... the persons from what would normally be called an extended family, might aid, but we need to convince them. I'll tell you why the Suarez family is fucked up later," I say, waving the last part off. "But what about the music?" she asks. "The big thing I had in Gonzaga was the live music I brought in," she continues. "This is where I can come in," says Fernando, chiming in, and seeing Romina's facial features relax, as it becomes more than one of my craziness, makes me want to kiss him. "I have many students and colleagues from the conservatoire which can't wait for a place to exist to give them a chance to show off, and if we manage to attract them, it might become quite a decent student spot," he says and I could see Romina slowly nodding.

"The thing is, that while I'm away running like a pig in mud and checking car boots which I will hope they won't be filled with drugs in the next two weeks, I will need you. I will need a business plan to present to the Suarezes," I say and I finally start seeing her smile at the idea.
 

Corrientes

Elder Statesman
Joined
Jul 17, 2010
Messages
2,375
Location
Bucharest
Capital
Callao
Nick
Ovi
Romina
30th of August 2022


It was my day off and for the first time for a long while I put no alarm on my phone to wake me up, so I promised myself that I would enjoy as much sleep as possible, but as always it didn't worked out as I wanted. I was up by 7 in the morning. I moved around, but I didn't wake up Fabian. It is weird between us. I can't really say that we're a couple, but I feel I'm losing him as a friend, or at the very least, things are weird. I wake up and go to the kitchen, where I drink a glass of water and after I look at the clock and see the time, I decide to make a coffee rather than go back in bed and start the day. Boiled some water in the kettle and made some instant coffee, because sometimes, even the Italiote blood in me needs to be lazy rather than always intransigent about the importance of espressos and the moka pot.

I took out my laptop and just started browsing the twatter, so see what's been happening around. I must he honest here, much of my feed is from Zaran journalists in exile in Rheinbund talking about how the Duchy of Zara within the Csengian Crown goes from bad to worse and how life is more and more difficult, Gonzanga turned into a dusty provincial town which is dominated now by a Csengian and Tarusan elite, with anyone who was someone before either in exile, dead, disappeared or very few, turned collaborationist. It is, honestly a dour and dreary read, that is why I preferred to also spice it up with fluff that normally I wouldn't really care about. For example, Musikk-TV has an account that works similar to a tabloid, presenting rumours on music stars and actors, and sometimes, as much as I want to read about life in Zara, there is a limit where you can keep your sanity, and prefer to escape. That is when I get much more interested by what weird love triangle exists between Kiara, Karina and Alejandro Sanchez, all three Correntine musicians, or the 1 million EM dachas some actors buy in Vitebsk because they see it as the perfect mix between having amenities while also being surrounded by nice nature.

About half an hour later, I hear Fabian waking up too and going to the bathroom, so I turn the volume of the music I was listening down, as to acknowledge that I'm sorry if he woke up because of it. I could be condemned here, but its my day off, I want to listen to some music without headphones. I continue to read some weird article about how Scanlaw will soon collapse, because they elected two Arch-Presidents and how civil war looms over them, which is then followed by some other news about Gran Occidentia being hit by a wave of terrorist attacks and bombings, something that made me shiver, reminding me of the Callao attack, earlier this month. Even so, it wasn't the Plaza Mayor Bombing that first came to my mind, but rather, Ander. He left 5 days ago, so he should be away for 9 more days, and to be honest, I really feel things are much quieter and lonelier here without him.

Fabian comes out of the room all dressed for work, gives me only a nod and a smile and then quickly runs away. I feel I might have destroyed what friendship we had before we slept together. I was very sweet and nice at first, now he's weird and I start to hate myself even more now that instead of stopping it when I first felt things are getting weird I continued it and now I'm getting into this rabbit hole. I looked some more on twatter, while listening to some music, until I received a text: When you can, come to the terrace, I have something for you. It was from Dona Sabrina. I looked at the time and to my surprise it was 10 already. I rose and went to my room to put some pants on me and stepped out of the apartment. Before going up on the stairs, I decided to first go to the other apartment on my story, Ander's and Fer's. I didn't even manage to knock on the door and the door opened, with a woman, with a guitar on her back came out and was as surprised and startled by me as I was by her. I quickly apologised and she managed to avoid the awkward moment by apologising too and quickly going down the stairs. Behind her, Fernando chuckled and shook his head. I observed that he changed his hairstyle, no more going for buzzcut commando style, but rather leaving the hairs on the top of his head longer, while still keeping the sides and the back very short. It was a typical haircut, which you would probably seen in 95 out of 100 random men under 35 on the streets of Corrientes, but it was interesting on him. I was always a bit intimidated when I was around him at first, but with this haircut, he seemed more... domestic and mainstream, less fierce, even though his sarcasm from time to time was annoying.

"Who's she?" I ask as I go inside the apartment, pointing towards the woman, who was older than me, maybe in her mid 50s. "My mistress," he says with a poker face. I stop, because he clearly mocks me and decide to do what he would do too, just sigh and shake my head. He chuckles. "That is Fatima, my foster mom. Well, the last one I had," he says. "She is now a teacher in a nearby school and she drove her son to school and being around she came over for a catch up," he adds. "I see... so she's a music teacher," I say and he nods. "Yeah, it would be weird, but rad too, for a teacher of other subject to move around from class to class with a guitar," he says laughing and I feel I blushed a bit. He is interesting, I feel his continuous mocks of me might resemble bullying, but at the same time, it feels like an us thing and I did observe that when he sees he abused it, he stops. "Yeah..." I say trying to not cringe at myself making useless observations at things that are very clearly visible. "... sorry to barge in like this," I add after a pause. "You're always welcome," he says, something that Ander always said too.

We go into the kitchen and he serves me with some coffee too. "Everything well with you and Fabian?" he asks and it just makes me scoff. "I did it again," referring to the fact that we slept together again, and I was happy Fernando caught the line of thought without me having to go into details for him. "But he's still weird. We used to talk very much and I really wanted this to become a real relationship and what I get in the end is a weird awkward atmosphere," I say. "Maybe you were his first and now he's a bit intimidated," he says chuckling. "I thought of that too, but no, he seems to know how things go where and everything, so it's not that," I say chuckling too. "I feel I'm just cursed to fall for weirdos..." I say after a pause, but Fernando's phone ringing startled both of us. He looked at it lazily at first, but when he saw it was Ander, he quickly responded.

"Hola, cariño, yeah... I'm just chilling with Romina," he said, answering the phone, making eye contact with me, giving me a big smile. "They allowed you to use the phone with no issue, so the initial camp training's done, right?... I see... In Taraira?" saying the last name he grimaced. Taraira was a town in the very western fringes of the nation, on the northern slopes of the Nevada Mountains, in the jungle, a place where the Correntine border meets the Los Altos and the Gran Occidentian ones, in the middle of the Selva. "Que?" he nearly shouted and I could see Fernando clenching his fists. "Because of those Occidentian fuckers? Motherfuckers, malparido pendejos..." he said, continuing to cuss for a while. I start again to think of literally everything bad happening, especially as I never seen Fernando, who was one of the calmest person I've seen in my life, like this. Fernando looks at me and gestures to calm down, as if I was the one going crazy, but being honest here, I was dying of curiosity and I was ready to jump on him, take the phone and ask what's happening.

"Wait... oh... okay. Call me when you will get again the chance," he said and finishes the call. "What the fuck was that?" I ask nervously, but Fernando feels like he's hypnotised. He puts the phone down first, takes a few deep breaths before saying anything. "The Border Guards are on high alert," he said. "... because of those Integralist fuckers bombing the shit out of their shitty country. Gran Occidentia de mi pola! They doubled the time of his station there to a month, with the reservation that if the situation deteriorates, it can be extended even more," he says, literally falling down on the chair at the table. "This... Jesus... motherfuckers..." he just repeats.

"At Taraira," I say and he nods. Taraira was a very small town, but everyone in Corrientes knew about it, because of the saying 'Going to Taraira', pretty much meaning going to hell and back, that's how faraway and remote it was. Even so, I did not know what to say. I rest my hand on his and his black eyes rise up to catch mine. "It's a month. On the 25th of September, he'll be back, and we'll wait for him at the bus terminal in Bocagrande, and we'll get drunk and party," I say, trying to show a brave face. I avoid what I know he fears, and what I fear too. That month might very well be extended even for a longer time. "I..." he starts saying something, but stops. He scratches the back of his head with his free hand. "I feel it would sound selfish if I say this," he says and grimaces. "Just let it out," I say giving him a reassuring smile. "He was supposed to go in late October for the re-call. I'm supposed to go in November. If they called him now, I wonder if I would be soon re-called too and if that means the regular armed forces are in high alert too," he says. I remember now, when he said he was in officially a reserve in the armoured units too. Yeah, he is annoyed as hell because he misses Ander but also fears that right when he returns, he will have to leave for it. And this is because Monterrey and Gran Occidentia have been going to hell. I try to give him another assuring smile, to tell him that he doesn't have to fear what might come and enjoy what we have now, but my phone buzzes with a text and I'm taken out of the zone.

I'm waiting! And you will regret if you miss this! The text was from Dona Sabrina. "The lady boss is literally spazzing over us to come to the roof it seems," I say and Fernando laughs. To be fair, if its on the terrace, which I got used to call the roof, I know what her surprise might be, especially as she has some cannabis plants in some pots there. We decide to shrug it off and go to her, leaving Fer and Ander's apartment and going up the stairs three stories.

"Finally!" Dona Sabrina yells as we come out on the terrace. It was a big place, just a few chairs, the pots of her plants, not all of them weed, but even so, an impressive majority was. "Oh, you bought my son in law too," she says to me sneakily. "I have something special for you," she says, pointing at a cannabis plant. "We know you grow them, there's nothing special," Fernando says. "Well, dear Ferro, here is where you're wrong, for this one's special. If you were around yesterday afternoon, you would have heard a lot of noises sounds and all the stuff happening on the stairs, for I had to move this beauty up," she says mimicking a hug of the plans. "I don't understand," I murmur. "I received this from Palmira. This is the plants the gods on Olympus were enjoying while seeing Troy burn. El Presidente's special. You don't even want to know how much networking I had to do in San Jose to get this, but now, with 8 plants I'm at the legal limit, so I can truly say I reached my potential," she says happily, taking a seat on one of the beach chairs that were on the terrace. I look at Fernando and meet his gaze and we just shrug and we both take a seat on the other chairs. "It's still a young plant, but I managed to get some joints too, as a teaser shall I say..." she says as she hands each of us one.

I chuckle and shake my head. "Dona Sabrina, it's literally before noon," I say, but she scoffs. "It's probably past 6pm in Tianlong or Vitebsk or wherever, so it's fine. Plus, it's your day off, relax for a bit," she says. "I had two lessons today in the afternoon, but they texted me to cancel them, so I have a day off and I need to chill," Fernando says taking a joint from Dona Sabrina. "A la mierda," I say and I take the other joint. "Now, tell me how my children annoyed the hell of both of you, and beware, I'm a nosy old hag, so don't spare me of the spicy details," she says laughing while lightning up the joints.

"Well, one's literally kidnapped by the Border Guard Service because the hijos de puta of Gran Occidentia want to demolish whatever isn't fucked up in that shanty of a nation, especially with the recent bomb attacks," said Fernando. It was clear to me that he hated the integralists for pretty much everything. And it hit me only now, that I should have seen it. The integralists also destroyed the districts of Embarcadero he was born and grew up in and now because of their antics, Ander was delayed from returning, so I pretty much understood his hate. "Bah, Integralists. Never in my life have I seen angrier and more frustrated men and women than in Integralist circles. Probably in Tarusa, but I haven't met a Tarusan yet, so I'm unsure, but I integracted with too many integralists," says Dona Sabrina as she takes a puff. "You interacted with Integralists?" I ask and she just laughs it off. "The military dictatorship. Here in Corrientes. The one from the mid 70s to 1985. I'm ready to bet everything I own that the military here was aided by integralists in Puerto Angeles to take over. Of course, we don't say that loudly, because it would be a shame for us, considering how Gran Occidentia went from bad to worse in the recent years, but never allow someone to present any of the generals in power from back then as anything but Integralists," she said.


"He'll be fine. He will come back with no issues. I always had faith in him and trusted him. Ander was always the streetwise one. I blame it on his gayness," she says chuckling, something that made Fernando chuckle too. "What about the other?" she asks, looking at me. It was funny how Dona Sabrina had a thing for Ander and Fabian, acting like they are her sons, going as far as to call me and Fernando her daughter and son in law. "Can I say he's an idiot?" I ask and Fernando starts laughing, which starts a chain reaction, and we just end up laughing like idiots, all three of us. "If he acts like an idiot, it's clear he has some tendencies and might be an idiot, that's for sure," Dona Sabrina says. "What did he do?" she asks. "Nothing. That's the problem. He was so friendly and nice and talkative and flirty and everything, and we kissed and it was going well, but then we slept together and he became weird. He talks to me monosyllabically and I feel there's no connection anymore," I say. Dona Sabrina just gestures in a way, laughing it off. "Fabian always was more of a momma's boy and thus he's quite immature. Just do what you do, and he'll come to terms with it, but I feel that he might be afraid of commitment. And now that you sleep together and also live together, that might make him feel everything moves too fast," she says, and I nod, taking another puff of the joint. "I just don't understand. It seemed perfect and sleeping together felt natural and nice and just the next step," I say. "Men are weird. Sometimes they are the biggest babies," Dona Sabrina says, but then she turns to Fernando. "Gay's are excluded, you know that," she says and we laugh it off.

"Just be sure you don't get hurt," she adds, finishing the joint and extinguishing it.
 
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