Chapter 2. The Seminoles
I entered the host family’s home in the detached townhouse in the northwestern section of Danubia City, following a trolley ride two blocks from the trolley stop.
I learned that the public penance I had joined with my host family included standing while on all public transportation. The stares she received from those riding were many more than even Ivanka, with her bruised bottom, had gotten.
The three other Siminov children were waiting at home for Ivanka and her parents to return, with or without the exchange student. I wasn’t sure which of the three was more excited to meet the now nude American student.
The girls began barraging me with questions before I had a moment to cross the threshold into the Siminov home. With typical curiosity, ‘Did you have a good trip?’ ‘Was Danubia a surprise to you?’ ‘What do you like to eat? Do you listen to Socrates Mistresses? ‘What does a varsity swimmer do? and ‘What happened to your hair?’
I was trying to answer each question as Kivar, looked at them, and reprimanded with, “Martina, Kaleen, go set the table as Mamma asked you before she left. We shall have plenty of time to ask questions on that day.”
Among the cultural differences between Danubian and American siblings interacted; however, the tone Kivar took sounded very condescending and somewhat demeaning toward the twins and me.
“Thank you, Kivar, I needed a moment to get my thoughts together as to the events of the day, and I guess you will be my foster brother for the next year,” Marcia offered her hand.
“Men and women do not have public physical contact unless married or engaged,” Kivar noted at her extended hand to look nowhere else. He did not add that the rule did not apply to criminals, the butchered head hair, and lack of body hair. I must be a wicked criminal in America. Oddly, he found my tan lines strangely erotic and found himself responding physically in a rather uncomfortable and unexpected way.
Kivar turned beet red from embarrassment, muttered something in Danubian slang under his breath, and backed out of the living room. Leaving me standing there alone and listening to the clatter of the dining room. Ivanka came to my rescue and offered to show me the house and yard.
“The sitting room, you have already seen,” Ivanka smiled. “Let us step outdoors into the rear yard.”
Once outside, I viewed a well-kept and gardened area about eighteen by ten meters. It almost looked like a suburban yard in America, there was a four-meter fence around its three sides.
Ivanka explained that although everyone sunned and swam in the nude in Danubia, family privacy was the norm. To intrude upon that privacy was a breach of Danubian protocols.
Ivanka showed me the swimming pool shared by the four units in the quadrangle. It was adequate for social swimming and aquatic exercise, but Marcia would have to find a fifty-meter swimming pool for her lap and speed training. Ivanka explained that the school and work kept the swimming pool open to the public. Ivanka showed me the raised ‘air bath’ platform where the family sunbathed in descent weather – nude and as a family.
I thought for a moment and then realized my body showed evidence of sunbathing but in the form of tan lines where my swimsuit had covered me when I remembered that swimwear was illegal under Danubian law. Her host family wasn’t accustomed to seeing tan marks left from the bikini.
Back into the house through the kitchen door, My host and I passed through with a quick hug from Ivanka for her mother, who was busy stirring a noodle dish on the stove. The twins had finished setting the large family table in the dining room and had retreated to their room just down the hall. Ivanka did not knock; minor children expected privacy from family members and found the two younger girls quietly squabbling with each other over who would get to read a book first.
Popular culture magazines and books were not allowed in Danubia, and the type of book a young girl or boy might desire was the latest in a series of novels for young adults dealing with Danubian history and relationships in a way that interested the tween reader. ‘The Silver Duke of Danubia’ was a book which the girls considered was a prize worth winning in their eyes. Ivanka walked up to the pair, took the book, and shook her head hard enough to loosen a braid. With pouty looks on the younger girls’ faces made it clear they were happy it was Ivanka and not Mamma or Poppa who had witnessed the display.
I was beginning to wonder how this young woman could have become a criminal when the purity of her heart and spirit seemed to shine in everything she did. Carrying the offending book in her hands, Ivanka opened the door to Kivar’s room. Kivar sat cross-legged in the middle of his bed with a bewildered look on his face.
“What seems to be the trouble, little brother,” Ivanka asked the fourteen-year-old when he looked up at her. “Her,” was his one-word response while pointing a finger in my direction. “Oh? Precisely what did Marcia do to make you so upset?” the older sister inquired. “She threatened to hug and kiss me,” Kivar used a tone suggesting this would have proved the worst form of punishment short of a pillory.
Hiding the giggle that was forming under her breath, Ivanka very authoritatively suggested to her brother, “Well, I will strongly suggest to you that you not repeat the behavior that provoked such a threat.”
The two young women backed out of Kivar’s room and closed his door just before the giggles started. “He likes you, probably had one of the physical responses young teenage boys get when they like a girl and was so embarrassed he had to retreat to his room. Oh my, I’d hate to see the reaction he’ll have if you do hug and kiss him.” Ivanka was still laughing when she showed me the bathroom. Here a sunken tub, more like a hot tub than a typical American bathtub, took center stage. It was communal and for soaking, resting, and relaxing, but not for washing one’s body.
That was done in the shower, separated from the tub by a meter and a half-tiled wall. It had wall-mounted and handheld shower heads and provided for total cleansing before one stepped into the tub. After a long soak, a person would shower again using an exfoliating scrub. I soon found that each bedroom had a ‘water closet’ integrated with a commode, sink, and mirror but bathing communally.
Ivanka opened the door to the room the two young women would share for the next twelve months. A large French door with curtains flung to the sides showed a view of the air bath platform. A rose bush beside it on the fence line. The room itself was a thing of female beauty. Done in lavenders and pinks, from carpet to walls to ceiling, and dominated by two full-size beds. One with a pink spread and the other with a pink and purple striped. Each student’s desk at the foot and a small dresser against the wall. Their door to the water closets opened on one wall was empty. Not a dress, skirt, blouse, sweater, or undergarment remained in Ivanka’s room.
Having agreed to accept participation in the family’s public penance, no problem with this, as she also had nothing to be hung up or folded in drawers. The few soaps and lotions I had been allowed to keep in school supplies were in the one backpack. That, for now, I simply sat in the corner by the French doors to the yard.
“Which one will be mine?” I asked Ivanka. Ivanka pointed to the bed nearest the water closet. “I thought it would be less of a navigation problem for you at night if you found yourself needing to use the facilities,” was Ivanka’s explanation. The discussion ended for the moment as Momma called the family to the table for dinner.