N.B. A note to any of our American cousins who may be following this outlandish fantasy tale. In some of the following chapters there may appear to be a negative attitude to some US institutions, or cultural icons. It's a story - get over it. This is just illustrating a reflection of how the attitudes and world media coverage in some countries portray the USA. On a personal note I get along fine with most folk, but in general I have no interest in local political machinations, and even less interest in world politics (or sport) - my only fervent hope would be for less conflict in the world - as young girls might get hurt.
Copyright (c) 2011, Slow Quill
The next day Ella took the boys to the local park, they saw some other young boys playing football and were invited to join in, and Ella ended up sitting on a park bench watching the kids, and talking with some of the other local mums,saying how they had only just moved to the city. She enjoyed the chance of conversation with other local mothers, and it was apparent straight off, that they did not have the hang-dog, depressed faces that had been so common in her old town.
They each talked of their children, both in the park, and elsewhere, Ella just saying her older daughter's where busy studying, getting ready for their new school. Some of the other mums had children going to the two schools she mentioned, and said she had done well to get in as newcomers, as both schools were popular it was difficult getting a place. Ella said how a local businessman her husband knew had helped to arrange it for them, as they had only just moved into their house over the last weekend.
As it approached lunch time, the kick-about wound down as the mums collected their kids heading home to eat, one woman held back, and when the others were out of earshot asked if Ella's daughters were perhaps meeting with eight other girls for lunch today.
After a few more tentative enquiries from both sides, it was plain that their daughters had more in common than the same school, so Ella invited Magda home for lunch so they could talk some more. Greg and Peter were pleased that one of their new playmates, Victor would be having lunch with them, after they had all eaten Ella shooed them out into the garden to play, so she could talk with Magda in private.
Ella was relived to have someone to talk to who was in the same situation, finding that Magda also kept Eve's younger brother in the dark, though she had recently started using the clothing catalogue ruse that was spreading through the studio as a cover. It was much easier to hide a lie that was close to the truth.
At the studio a few stops away on the Metro, ten girls were gathered around a table in the canteen, as Anna and Marta were introduced to the other eight girls with whom they shared a common bond. The discussions were wide ranging covering the school and the studio, and the changes that were happening there, as well as fashion and boys, but one of the main topics was that of learning to speak English.
They may have been the new kids on the block, but the others seemed in awe of the rise of Anna's web persona as Natasha, and Marta the scriptwriter, manger and ideas factory. The girls always called each other by their real names, so as to never slip up elsewhere, and almost seemed to treat their online presence as a separate person, which in a way they were; they were the fantasy girls of men half a world away.
By a strange twist of fate it was decided that Eve would introduce the girls at school as distant cousins of hers who had moved to the city, thus making a link as to why the girls would become involved in their social group in the school.
Before lunch that day Ivan had spoken to Anna and Marta about his discussions with both schools that the local models attended, and he had called Svetlana and arranged she would teach a few classes a week at each school, but be available to provide tuition during some evenings and weekends exclusively for the models.
Svetlana had been bowled over by the offer, working part time in two of the Kiev's finest schools, with guaranteed additional private lessons, and free use of a company apartment during school terms, and the promise of many students during school holidays for her intense courses, boarding with her in her own home, just like the girls she was currently teaching.
During his various talks with Svetlana, Ivan had come to realise that it was possible that this intelligent woman had doubts about the fashion catalogue cover story. He was looking forward to meeting her face to face the following day, in order that he could better gauge whether he could disclose the true nature of the studio. If she were fully on board, she may be able to think of revisions to her lesson content for better intonation and appeal to their growing client base, who seemed eager for more of the English dialogue videos.
As it turned out it was a good day for the whole family, as Igor had been asked to call in to see his new boss, in order to select a company car ready for the following week as it was expected he may have to visit several work sites in the course of a day. As he would rarely be expected to carry anything other than drawings or documents he would not need a panel van and was offered a range of different cars to choose from.
Being a practical man, and the given the fact that he was also allowed to have personal use of it, he asked if a people carrier was available, explaining how it would be useful with four children but also he could move several staff from one site to another if they had a rush job to do.
His manager immediately saw the benefit as they had been caught out before with the odd emergency, trying to get staff across town on public transport with all their tools.
Igor having left that morning by tram and Metro, arrived home that evening in a new shiny MPV, (Muti-passenger vehicle, or Mini van) which he proudly parked on the drive in front of the garage, glad to see that it did not look too tall to park inside.
Dinner that evening was literally put on the back burner, as everyone rushed outside to see the wonderful new car, which really was impressive as few enough people in their previous neighbourhood had even owned old cars, or for that matter even bicycles. Proudly Igor gave his family a brief ride around the nearby streets in order to get some piece and quiet, also he wanted to eat.
When at last everyone was settled around the table, they all exchanged their news of the day, the girls saying how they had spent some time meeting with their new school mates, and Ella relating how she and the boys had met a mum with a lad at the lower school. She neglected any mention of the woman's daughter, after their lunchtime chat both ladies could see the advantage of being able to cross check on any schemes the girls may cook up between themselves.
That evening Ella and Igor were especially affectionate, Igor saying how he always envied the guys he had seen in films making out in the back seat of a car. Ella poked him in the ribs saying to act his age, as they had a perfectly good new bed that was separated from the kids by a hallway and the bedroom doors.
Thursday was full of anticipation for the sisters, despite the various interruptions and excitements, they had managed to complete the two girl cheerleader script, and had asked Dmitri to check it over. Marta had written it like a play, in that there was the dialogue, and the stage directions for the players. They watched his expressions as he read, pleased with the smiles and chuckles, and by the time he finished there were only a few points that he suggested where they should make any changes.
Dmitri praised their work saying how difficult it was to write realistic dialogue in a foreign language, but their goal of being naughty and amusing without being explicitly crude would be a tough task for anyone.
When Svetlana called Ivan from the station mid afternoon, he rounded up the girls and hurried down to the minibus they had waiting outside the reception area to go and collect the returnees. After swift greetings at the station, they headed over to the apartment complex where the studio retained a few units, and moved Svetlana into the one recently vacated by Anna and Marta's family.
After refreshments sitting in the lounge, Svetlana handed Ivan three report cards as her newest pupils looked on nervously, each hoping for a chance to be first in line for the new style of English dialogue videos. Looking through the appraisals, he noted that each girl's weak points and strengths were outlined, with useful comments on what each one needed to work on to aid their progress.
He conversed with each of them briefly in English, and was impressed with how well they were able to handle the conversational aspect of a new language, then told them they had all worked hard and he was sure it would benefit them all handsomely in the near future with a number projects that were still in the planning stages at the moment.
Ivan said he would like to take Svetlana for a stroll down to the local café, and he would leave it in Marta's capable hands to chose a candidate for the presentation she had been working on, then afterwards the girls could each call their parents to collect them.
It was pleasant walking across the small park like area of grass in the late afternoon sunshine heading towards the nearby café, then seeing how busy it was Ivan suggested they sit on a park bench for chat till the crowd subsided, not wishing their conversation to be overheard.
"Svetlana, I am happy with your achievements so far, but are you sure the arrangements we discussed about your teaching in two schools part time, and the other private lessons for some of our girls won't be to much for you?"
She answered explaining that this was just the challenge that she had been looking for, as the pupils he had sent seemed so motivated, and if the schools were as good as they were reputed to be, she would enjoy teaching there as well. Sensing an undercurrent that Ivan might be trying to broach some change in the tendered offer she decided to be up front and lay her cards on the table.
"Sir, I am very grateful for this opportunity, before Anna and Marta showed up at my door, businessmen and those wealthy enough to travel were my mainstay, sometimes I would translate the odd document, but as the economy turned down I ended up with fewer pupils each month, frankly I was in debt. I'll be honest that I've had my doubts about why models for a clothing catalogue need to speak English, but they are well mannered, happy and willing to learn, and they like and respect you, so I don't think you're running the white slave trade", she said with a grin. "If you have changed your mind about hiring me, or if you need to pay me less due to the cost of the apartment I am willing to be flexible."
Smiling Ivan replied,"I do not renege on agreements, the results so far convince me you are the right person for the job, and I somehow perceived from previous conversations that you were doubtful about the catalogue cover story, so I will now be honest with you. We're not white slavers, and the girls really are models - along the coast, or at many of the nudist resorts you may see young girls such as you've been teaching and think nothing of it, but in the USA and many other countries they have some really mixed up issues with regard to bare skin."
"We run photographic web sites, admittedly the girls are young, and they do undress, but none of our laws here are broken, and we don't produce pornography. Admittedly there are some small minded people who would denounce our content, but it is only an extension of the natural way girls of that age express their growing femininity and flirtatiousness. As our client base has grown, we saw there was a demand for video clips of our models - hence the girls want to learn English to speak on their clips to make them more interesting for our customers."
Svetlana was nodding, "Let me guess Anna was your first English video model, that's why the other girls look up to her, but I think Marta was very self conscious regarding her own appearance when we first met, but not now, the others respect her too, I just cant see her in front of a camera, though her confidence has grown in leaps and bounds just recently."
Ivan went on to give more details of the operation, clear in his mind he had found a new member for his team, he just needed to work out a fair bonus scheme that reflected her contribution to the girls achievements.
Marta was startled by this turn of events, but realised that Ivan was demonstrating his faith in her judgement in selecting the right girl to join Anna in this second English video.
In a decisive manor Marta said she would like each of them to read from the script for Anna and herself, and they would go in alphabetical order with the others waiting in the bedroom with the radio on. She had each girl audition in turn, first by reading from the script, then asking them to look at a few lines, put the script down, and play the part as they would for the video.
Anna and Marta quickly came to a decision, and called together the three candidates.
Marta said they had all done well, and could expect to do their own individual shoots very soon, but they had chosen Lisa for this two handed skit, to temper the disappointment of the other two girls Marta pointed out Lisa and Anna would have to share the royalties.
The three girls who had been studying with Svetlana, Lisa, Nikki, and Sasha, all lived in satellite towns just two or three stops outside Kiev, after a few phone calls it was arranged that Ludmilla, Sasha's mum, would come and escort both her daughter and Nikki back home, and that Lisa would stay over for one or two days to shoot the video.
It was then that Anna pointed out to her sister they would need at least all of tomorrow to practice, then they were busy on Saturday, almost before Marta could say anything Anna said Marta had a date on Sunday and she would not shoot the video without her manager being there. They would have to shoot on Monday, even then it would mean Lisa would only have one day at home before starting back at school.
Lisa said she couldn't see any problems with the schedule, she then phoned home to talk it through with her parents.
It had helped that Marta had Ivan's number in her mobile phone, and that he had been with Svetlana at the local café when she called so that it was arranged for Lisa to stay over with her teacher in the apartment until Monday. While they waited for Ludmilla to journey into town, Anna had called out for pizza to be delivered, and had called home telling her mum they would be back late, and what was happening. Ella suggested they call back when they were ready to leave and their dad would come and drive them home.
With everyone so keyed up, it was decided to do a few practice runs of the sketch with scripts in hand, so the newcomers could watch as Marta gave stage directions, and could answer questions on each run through. The proceedings were interrupted by the pizza and then later when Ludmilla arrived, after hugs all round Sasha and Nikki were heading home.
Rehearsals came to an end when Ivan returned with Svetlana, he informed the girls that their teacher was now fully aware of the true nature of the studio's output, and would be able to help polish up any new scripts and act as voice coach for the productions.
Ivan enquired if Marta had Anna's cup cake video loaded onto her ever present laptop, on her confirmation, he asked that she show it, so that both Svetlana and Lisa could see the type of result the studio was aiming for.
Shortly they were gathered round as 'Natasha' launched into her cookery demonstration, as a mildly embarrassed Anna watched the woman's reactions. She seemed amused, and then began to laugh in all the right places, and when it finished congratulated Anna for such a fine performance. Anna said how she was concerned that her accent was not quite right, but was assured that the cute 'foreign' tinge of her voice would appeal more to her audience than if she tried for perfect diction. Lisa on the other hand was just plain stunned at the video she had just seen, it looked truly professional, and she was both simultaneously relieved and awed at the chance to be involved in the studio's second English video production.
After Ivan and the girls had left, teacher and pupil sat drinking hot chocolate before retiring for the night, Lisa apologised to Svetlana for the deception about the studio, explaining how they were sworn to secrecy, and the woman said how she understood, as there were many small minded people who would not recognise the opportunity this presented to both the girls, and their families.
Svetlana became serious, and told Lisa how as the economy had deteriorated there were streets in her home town she had avoided taking them, because women, and even some girls not much older than Lisa were working there as prostitutes. She went on to say she did not have any moral issues with prostitution as such, but it was a pity the difficult circumstances rather than a woman's own free choice, dictated the path she must take.
Ivan had made arrangements for her to visit both the schools on Monday and each had allocated a budget for books and teaching materials that they would discuss with her, and he then told her the sum the studio had set aside for the coming three months, which they would review for each coming quarter. The size of the investment made it clear they felt this was an important project, and after her morning tour of the studio they had moved to the canteen for lunch, looking around she told Ivan of an idea that had just occurred to her.
"I noticed two tables have little reserved signs, obviously set aside for some other people who have lunchtime meetings, I would like to get some saying 'English only at this table', then as more models and staff learn English we could have additional tables where they will have a chance to practice together with different people in a social setting."
This met with Ivan's approval, jokingly suggesting novel ideas must be catching the more time people spent in Marta's company, as she was their resident ideas factory.
Svetlana was pleased to get her hair done at the salon before leaving, she then spent the afternoon checking the local phone book back at her 'town apartment' looking up, and talking to various school and educational supply companies. It was almost with a feeling of guilt she blithely ordered sets of text books, thirty or more at a time, so as new pupils were signed up, her existing students would not have to relinquish their study aids, until such time they felt confident to do so.
She made carefully written records of her purchases and how much she had spent, as she kept looking at the studio issued credit card she had been entrusted with, to order books and other supplies she would need to teach the girls from the studio.
Finding a listing for a legendary book store she had heard of but never been to, she noted the address and set off across town with her city map/travel guide. The place was a true Aladdin's cave, with both new and second hand books in a diverse range of languages. Seeing a small wheeled bookcase that the staff used for stocking the shelves was just what she needed to reverse the process, as book-stores didn't have supermarket trolleys, she then began to collect all the books they had for children or teens that were in English.
A short while later, first the inquisitive manager, then a junior member of staff were bringing forward books for her approval or rejection. Novels, romances, fairy-tales, travel guides for UK and US destinations, and any other type of English text she thought might interest her new students were included in her haul.
After the first twenty books Svetlana had realized she would not be able to carry away her purchases, but as her bill was totalled up by the manager himself, she enquired if they would be able to deliver them today. Impressed at the amount this private teacher was prepared to spend in his shop, he asked for a delivery address, and promised they would be there before close of businesses. Before leaving she expressed an interest in any teen lifestyle or fashion books in English, and hoped to call by soon with some of her pupils.
Marta, Anna and Lisa had collected their props and costumes, and headed over to the apartment the sisters had previously stayed in with Valya, and shot the cup cake video.
They went through the script several times before attempting a few dry runs, as if they were filming, the basis of the script being that the older girl - Lisa, a member of the cheerleading squad had loaned Anna the outfit of a girl who had left the squad, and was teaching her the moves and chants so that she could audition for the vacancy.
It started as they 'entered' the apartment in generic school uniforms carrying several bags, slipping each others 'web name' and age into the conversation in place of the blatant name and age to camera used before. Lisa's third line was, "Hey Natasha, the girl that left the squad was ten years old the same as you, so I grabbed her old uniform, I'm sure it will fit you"
Anna replied, "Thanks Nadia, I don't know of any other thirteen year old's on the squad who would offer to help me as you have"
The dialogue continued as they laid out the two uniforms on the sofa, then striped out of their school clothes, next they started to put on the cheerleader kit, Natasha bulked at wearing another girls panties, so as a show of solidarity both girls remained bare beneath their short pleated skirts. They went on to do the moves and chants, with 'Nadia' leading then 'Natasha' copying, with deliberate falls and mis-steps on both parts in order to flash to camera. Among much clever banter, horse play and giggling, the girls complained about getting hot and sweaty, which led to a final strip as the two girls went on to share a bath.
Marta then held a post mortem, dissecting the play bit by bit referring to her hastily written notes, as they all made an input to refine the production. They ran through various parts of the sketch, where they tried out the changes they had discussed, eventually ironing out any of the perceived problems. By two o'clock they were happy with the artistic changes they had made, and were in the process of reprinting the amended scripts, when Oksana buzzed from the front door, saying she had brought the circus with her.
Along with Oksana, who was to shoot the video on Monday, there was John carrying some of her equipment, Andreas, who ran the props department, and Sergio a set dresser who somehow the sisters had not met before.
Sergio was so outrageously camp, he was almost a caricature that made the guys in the costume design department look quite tame by comparison, but he was such a lively fun character that he made everyone laugh. Anna got them all tea or coffee as they settled around the table as Marta described the sketch and how the action flowed through the apartment so that the technical aspects could be sorted out.
Once the crew were up to speed on the premise of the drama, the actors did a slow walk through so that camera angles, and lighting placements could be determined, then it was the turn of Sergio and Andreas. Sergio talked about having various 'age appropriate' books and toys placed in the background, while Andreas made notes, even suggesting some photos to show 'Natasha's' dog and two cats, then they did a walk through.
"OK, I need a horse-riders hat and crop on the hooks by the front door, on the shelves in the lounge, horsey and ballet books, and can you find me a porcelain horse, and we need some western boy band CD's over there, and a phone directory for anywhere along the Black sea coastal area." Sergio then moved to the bathroom, "I don't think we need these on open display" he said popping the basket of feminine hygiene products into a drawer out of the way, "I want to see bubble bath, coloured soaps, shampoos, and something like a junior miss make-up kit on this counter-top"
Svetlana confident in her new position did some clothes shopping on the way back to her apartment, but finding the place empty, went across the hall and knocked there in search of Lisa, who was still nominally in her charge until she returned home. Her greeting was enthusiastic as she was invited in to review a read through of the completed script, after listening she commented that it would be more useful to assess the dialogue in the context of their little drama as a whole.
After witnessing the 'Full-Monty' production, both players were nervous of there teacher's reaction to a few stumbles they had made in the dialogue. All three girls were surprised that Svetlana said that a word perfect rendition would not have been as charming, and to leave them in, they should not be too hard on themselves, as their audience would love it all the more. She went on to explain that if you made an effort to speak in the tongue of your host country, or this case audience, they would be very forgiving about hesitations or grammar, and they would love the girls accents.
When Lisa started telling the story of the set dresser Svetlana suggested including some of the bi-lingual dictionaries and a few of the American teen magazines, to add to the reality of how hard the girls had been studying, which they thought was a great idea.
The previous day neither sister had explained why they would be busy on the Saturday, as they didn't want Sasha, and Nikki to feel they were being blanked, it wasn't meant to be a party for the models at the studio, but for the people who had helped them move home.
Marta took this opportunity to invite Svetlana and Lisa, and tell them what it was about.
The previous day, when they had realised the shoot would have to be delayed, Anna had phoned home to tell her mum to add another two on the list, but with adults and children, it now looked like they would have between 180 -200 guests during the course of the day. Both sisters were nervously looking forward to the large social occasion.
To be continued in chapter 17
Please feel free to point out any errors, or make comments.
Slow Quill asks about errors or suggestions. One thing which isn't explained is where Anna and Marta got keyboarding skills in their small town. Maybe their old school had a donation of old fashioned typewriters from a local business which went bankrupt.
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