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.
(US - UK definitions, UK purse = ladies wallet for notes and coins, USA purse = UK handbag) end of lesson on with story.
Copyright (c) 2012, Slow Quill
Newspaper deliveries were not common, but living as they did in a relatively affluent area the local news agent had a sufficient number of households that wished to receive the morning papers to read over breakfast or on the commute into work. Along with their father's newspapers were the five American titles and one UK magazine that Anna had ordered the week before, having got the idea when she saw her mum had a woman's weekly magazine delivered on Tuesdays. Marta and Anna pounced on the pile covering the doormat, impatient to scan the indexes for interesting articles, it was irrelevant that the issues were over a fortnight out of date, they were current enough for their purposes.
By the time Marta had her English lesson in the afternoon, several of the other girls had heard of, or seen the foreign magazines and were dying to look through them, boys in the class feigned indifference until seeing that they featured many hot teenage girls.
When Svetlana came in she soon restored a semblance of order to the classroom, then gained a lot of interest from the boys by stating how there were many foreign sports or car magazines available from shops in the city centre, then about the joy of reading so many classic books in their original native tongue, and not to forget the better job or travel opportunities available to those with a good grasp of English.
As Marta went around the class assisting, most of the girls were surprised at the ready availability of the magazines, but apart from the other studio girls present, they were unwilling to pay the inflated price charged for these exotic imports.
The week progressed without any major incident, Ella called the catering company and the terms were tentatively agreed upon, in that she would get sufficient warning of upcoming events where they wanted her baking, and a scale of prices, with the company providing the majority of ingredients and the additional cookware she would require.
Igor received a few leads on properties, but on viewing them he declined to make any offers, sure if he waited the right prospect would show up, in the mean time he would be patient, and keep his powder dry, looking into other issues needed for the project. With his new job, and the contacts it provided, he was aware of the various official channels he would need to deal with when it came to permits and inspections relating to the repair and refurbishment of buildings, and what was expected in the way of bribes.
To his surprise he found there was less corruption and greed in the city than in his old home town, and often the deals were quicker, more straight forward and honest.
The studio was a hive of activity, the software needed to run the 'talk to the models forum' had been through various beta test stages, and was deemed ready to run when they had a sufficient number of girls set up with the language skills and training so that they could announce a launch date. This freed up some of the IT staff to look into the issue about offering members higher resolution photo sets that had been held back until now.
Ivan's successful meeting at the beginning of September with the directors who owned the studio, and a raft of other studios running teen and pre-teen web sites, meant he had been given an open mandate to press ahead with all of the proposals he had tabled. In the same way that Ivan had pressed of late for 'best practice' to be introduced throughout his studio, the directors were looking to their other operations to take on board some of these recent changes that had caused Ivan's boost in turnover.
It was no coincidence that the new business park where they had located the studio he managed, was also the place where Kiev's largest, and most high tech internet service provider was situated, but the cost of leasing the modern prestige buildings in the current climate caused several of the nearby units to remain unoccupied since it's completion.
In discussion with Dmitri, Boris and a few others, arrangements were now being made to lease a unit to house a server farm able to host the entire network of companies in the group. With the budget available, it was to be state of the art, massive storage, high speed fibre optic links, raid arrays to prevent data loss, and it could all be controlled remotely by each of the studios using the facility. Conveniently it was in an adjacent building, though in theory it should run autonomously without the need for staff to be on hand on a daily basis.
Boris being by nature paranoid, wanted all the equipment to be delivered during the next extended holiday weekend, in order to ensure the minimum number of people were aware the building was even in use. To humour the man Ivan agreed, not realising at the time it was possibly one of the wisest decisions he would ever make.
Following on from her meeting with Marta on Saturday, Alina had made up a long list of photo-set, and video opportunity proposals, based on the research data into the models interests and hobbies. Now Alina returned to her work of trying to discover if there were links between how often any particular model was featured in discussions on the members forum, and her rise and fall in terms of sales. This was one of the earliest projects she had worked on, but then it got sidelined by the stream of ideas for which Marta wanted data. Unfortunately it transpired that the sales either matched the interest shown in real time or with such a slight lag, that the source data didn't provide much in the way of useful information.
The next task Marta thought they should investigate, was to plan various themes for a number of future studio projects, based on a wish list extracted from the comments made by members on the forum that were within the bounds of the material for which they were currently well known. They had also talked about making a second list of member wishes, that Ivan could pass on to sister studios, that were outside the limits of the type of photo shoots they covered with their models.
Most afternoons Anna continued with the forum practice sessions, which improved her responses and the speed of her replies, but it also honed the skills of the team of pretend clients, who were expecting a few more models to join in the training programme shortly.
With all the various changes taking place at the studio, memos letters and e-mails were being shot off in every direction, but the one of most interest, was the official invitation for Anna to be part of the first batch from their locally based models to initiate the scheme that Marta had suggested, that of 'future stock banking'.
Eight of the top models had been selected to start with, as the staff involved reorganised their term time work rotas around this new enterprise, in order to run sessions after school and on through early evening. A few more girls would be given the opportunity to join later, in the coming weeks, after any problems were aired out in the pilot project.
Ivan had worked out a scheme where the photographers and make-up staff that worked with each model would get paid a slightly higher premium on current set sales now, to benefit from their additional workload, then a smaller percentage at a later time when the work from the 'future stock banking' was released.
Meanwhile in the IT dept Karl's working week was centred around his college classes held on two evenings a week, his time in the office was spent assisting whoever had the largest or most urgent current project. Being lowest on the totem his two days off each week were the most subject to change, the whims of other staff taking precedence. Unfortunately he would be working during the coming weekend and was off on Wednesday and Friday, so having first checked with Ella if it was OK, he waited outside the school gates on that Friday afternoon to surprise Marta with a trip to the cinema, then to go for a meal afterwards.
Marta in animated conversation with Anna and Eve as they headed off towards the Metro station was unaware of Karl's presence in the press of pupils leaving the gate until her sister gave a squeal at seeing his sudden appearance. Many of the other students from her classes saw Marta embraced by, and then kissing the handsome older boy, this was bound to increase her kudos as well as being grist for the rumour mill in the coming weeks.
After hearing his plans, and that her mother had been informed, she put her purse and phone in a small handbag which she normally kept in her pack, then Eve and her sister kindly offered to take home her school back-pack. The gossip and speculation had already began as the two teens walked away holding hands, as Karl informed Marta of the films available, showing at the afternoon matinee.
Karl was pleased that his unexpected arrival had been so well received, and even how she had introduced him to some of her nearby friends as "Karl my boyfriend I told you about", which made him smile and swell with pride. Reviewing the limited choice of films on offer Marta hesitantly asked if he would object to the romantic comedy, in preference to an action adventure film. Karl had the sense to agree, seeing as it was the type of show that would most likely set her in the right frame of mind on a date, even though he would have preferred the alternative choice of film.
Marta did comment if she had known they were going out she would have gone home to get changed, as she was just wearing her school clothes, and he said then it wouldn't have been a surprise.
"Anyway I would go out with you even if you were not wearing clothes,..no I mean, you don't need to get dressed up". Karl stumbled through his Freudian slip getting more flustered and red faced.
He was saved from blundering on by a grinning Marta pulling his face to hers for a long kiss, then she playfully admonished him for being naughty, but inside she was exhilarated that he had made such an admission.
The showing at the cinema was sparsely attended, so they had no trouble finding seats in the middle of an empty row near the back, where they settled down with their soft drinks and a large box of popcorn. Searching for the popcorn box in the dark gave an initial excuse for wandering hands that got lost en-route, but soon the dull film was forgotten as their focus was only on each other, the popcorn now spilled across the floor.
When Marta realised the hand roaming above her waist had stalled from making further progress, she suspected the reason was her fathers dire warnings for Karl to be respectful. She was certain that Karl's magic fingers wanted to head north, and for a while agonised over her own desires, then placing her hand over his moved it upwards to her breast, giving him tacit permission to explore over her clothing.
When the lights came up both teens were in an agitated state, Marta went off to the toilet to freshen up and repair her make-up, while Karl stood in the foyer with his jacket over his arm shielding an erection that he wished would subside for a while, in fact if the film had been any longer he had been fearful of an even more embarrassing occurrence.
Leaving the gloom of the cinema and emerging into the late afternoon sunlight the glances between the pair of them were at first a little awkward, having progressed to a new level of intimacy, until Marta broke the tension by saying she wouldn't get her dad to break any of his bones - yet.
Laughing she shoved him then ran off and dodged behind an group of small statues that adorned that part of the plaza, the chase was on as there ensued a game of evasion, until Marta nearly bumped into a cluster of street people who had gathered hoping for a few coins from those revellers who would be out later in the evening.
Marta froze for a moment, then Karl took her arm and lead her off, she was now feeling a sense of guilt for the popcorn they had so carelessly wasted earlier, and thought about the meal they would have shortly, saddened by the fact even if she had emptied her purse it would do little to really aid all those unfortunate souls, it was a situation repeated across the city and the country.
Anna and Eve had been left as the focus when Marta had departed with Karl, though Eve as a model knew the truth, Anna spun the line that her sister had met Karl through some other people that she played chess with, and they had been going out together for some weeks. When they got off the Metro they giggled together about the interest this had stirred as they walked home, Anna invited Eve round, whispering how she could sit in on a forum practice session. Eve's brief call home using Anna's mobile phone got her mother's approval, so the girls passed their normal parting place to continue to Anna's house, where they joined the boys at the kitchen table for a snack before going upstairs to her bedroom.
Of course the model forum was now an open secret amongst those models that lived in the city which was the reason all Svetlana's evening tuition sessions were double or triple booked with girls willing to have group lessons rather than no lesson at all. Some models had also resorted to seeking out additional lessons with alternate tutors to cram as many hours a week as they could manage.
As most girls were multilingual or at least bi-lingual to start with, they had the mind set for learning this new skill. The issue where most of them struggled was in learning a different character set in reading and writing the language, then there was also the problem that there were two ways of spelling so many words. They became used to this issue which came up when reading materials from two countries, but it had been agreed that when writing they themselves would use the simpler and more logical American spellings.
The studio, and the networked group it was a part of, had been started by some wealthy backers, with some radical ideas, the whole ethos based on quality, which they believed could only be achieved with happy healthy models in the right settings. Apart from first class health care, it was impressed upon the girls and their parents that the girls needed good school grades, for they needed a career beyond modelling.
Anna fired up her 'work' laptop, then logged onto the 'in house' part of the studio network and soon found there were five people ready for her session today, playing the part of site members. First Eve just observed how Anna interacted with the exchanges on screen, then asked if she could join in, Anna agreed, she then typed a message to tell the others that Kasia, Eve's model persona, had joined them and would like to take part.
As the system automatically added each members or models name preceding their text, Eve added a K before each entry she made so they could tell which were from her, and which were really from Natasha. Eve was of course slower, but she was able to keep up with most of the banter and type reasonable replies, though her spelling and grammar needed more practice. They unwittingly ran past the time Anna usually spent each afternoon, and it was a message on screen headed with Dmitri's member persona that called the session to an end, thanking Eve for her participation, and suggesting she came in over the weekend, in order that he could set her up with a laptop so she could join in from home herself.
Eve was buzzing with excitement that she had been bumped up the queue to join the training for the model forum, hugging and thanking Anna for helping her get this opportunity, saying how pleased her parents would be with the news.
They went down to they kitchen to get fresh drinks, to see that the boys were out in the garden on their bikes going around a course they had set out using some road cones their father had brought home. Eve said her younger brother, who the boys knew from school was also mad keen to play on his bike whenever possible, and they talked about taking all three over to the park some time soon. Returning to Anna's room the girls lay on the bed reading some of the foreign magazines that had arrived that week, with Eve saying how she would also go to the local shop, to place an order for the two titles she liked best.
When it was time for Eve to go home she hugged Anna, once again thanking her and saying they should get together more often after school, and perhaps take turns as the host, besides Eve had an internet connection so they could both join in a training session at either house.
Supper seemed strange that evening with an empty chair, and Anna noted her father looked somehow bothered, until her mum told him off, saying how Karl had promised he would bring Marta home by eight o'clock,and he was a good reliable boy, and how their daughter was a sensible girl, and to stop needlessly fretting.
After this rebuke, normal meal time chatter started up again around the table, with the boys interrupting one another in order to tell their father about the new English books Anna had brought home, ones that her teacher had found for them. Igor asked Anna how much they owed Svetlana for the books, but Anna told him they were a gift as she considered their family had been solely responsible for her recent change of fortune.
Igor nodded and thought to himself that many people had benefited directly, and indirectly from both his girls becoming involved with the studio, pondering that fact he wondered about all the many other models and their families, all the money they earned and spent, plus all the people employed, and local businesses the studio supported. He couldn't help harking back to his previous dark thoughts that eventually someone would take notice and poke their nose in where it wasn't wanted.
"Earth to Daddy, if you don't finish your dinner mum won't let you have any fruit pie".
First his wife, now Anna having a go at him, he lunged forward as if to bite her wagging finger, much to the delight of the boys, as Anna quickly withdrew the offending digit.
Now he was back joining in, Greg talked about how well they rode around the obstacle course they had set up in the garden, and asking if their dad could take off the stabilisers.
He said he would check how well they could ride over the weekend, and maybe he would raise the training wheels higher for now, but they hadn't had the bikes long enough to take them off yet.
Ella insisted it was Igor's turn to bathe the boys that night, and read to them, which was a task they had always shared, with all four of their children bringing them up, but mainly she didn't want him hovering near the front door ready to terrify young Karl, for she had faith that the two would show up shortly before tonight's agreed curfew.
A short distance down the road by 'their bench' in the park, stood the two teens in question held in close embrace for their last serious kiss of the evening. Karl's hands this time were now lower than Marta's waist, pressing them together, leaving her in no doubt of his condition, which she had been aware of, at least visually since leaving the cinema.
It was only with difficulty she restrained herself from pushing back with equal enthusiasm, for it had been a super date, starting with a wonderfully romantic gesture, to surprise her at school gate, whisking her away in front of all her classmates.
With all the kissing Marta wondered that her lips and tongue weren't twice their normal size, but on reflection she was very conscious of her other lips, and they felt very wet and swollen. Stepping back she was able to focus on Karl's face, her eyes widening, she quickly delved into her bag retrieving a tissue, reaching up to his face, embarrassed, Marta explained he was now wearing more of her make-up than she was. Karl once again felt like a small boy out with his mum, memories of her licking a hanky to clean his dirty face.
Anna was reading through the recently delivered English books at the kitchen table with her mum, as Ella was making an effort to keep up, trying to keep pace with the boys progress, when they heard the front door close.
They were at first shocked as Marta entered the kitchen crying - but then they could see she was not upset, they were happy tears.
With her mum and sister fussing over her, she wiped her face blew her nose, and then they sat at the table with some freshly made fruit tea as Marta's tale unfolded.
Mostly for her mums benefit she told of how Karl surprised her at school, then glossed over any revealing details of their time in the cinema or about the meal after, and got to the point where she and Karl had stopped to kiss near the park.
"Well we stood there kissing for a while and he was being all romantic, then I saw he had some of my make-up on his face, it was sort of embarrassing, so I told him, and cleaned it off for him. You know how Valya helped me with make-up, and I've always hated the marks left from when I had chickenpox when I was little - but now my make up was all in a mess and I knew Karl could see them all close up, then I started crying".
"He asked me why I was upset, so I said about the scars, and how he wouldn't want to go out with me, nobody would" she sniffed for a bit then continued, "Those little marks, he said, are just part of the story of my Marta who was ill as a little girl, I see them in the same way I see the laughter lines around the eyes of someone who is always happy, and I feel very proud and lucky you agreed to be my girlfriend"
Igor missed the story, and came into the kitchen to find three weeping females.
Getting the wrong idea, his first thought was to comfort his daughter, while his second was where he could bury the little shit who had hurt her.
Ella looked up and could read her husbands face.
"No Igor, these are happy tears, Marta's OK, Karl didn't do anything to upset her, in fact the reverse is true - he's made her see the marks from her chickenpox for what they are, just a little part of who she is, not the disfigurement she has always imagined them to be".
Father and daughter hugged tightly, "So I don't need to hurt him?"
"No Daddy, he made me open my eyes, I may not like the marks, but they are a little bit of me, like Karl has a mark on his leg from an old cycling accident, it's just stuff about our past that makes us who we are".
"How do you know about a scar on his leg?"
To be continued in chapter 24
For those of you who are still with me - a comment or two might be helpful, also does anyone want any other hints/spoilers of what lies further along the trail?
In the next instalment, possibly the worlds most embarrassing medical exam.
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