Diplomacy, part 6
The intercom buzzed to Kelly's office. She pressed the button and left it on speaker phone.
"Ambassador Patterson, there is a woman here who insists on being allowed to speak with you. She seems to be Russian? I couldn't pronounce her name to save my life, ma'am."
Kelly bit her lip to stop herself from laughing at the serious young man at the gate. "It's quite alright. Let her in and have someone escort her to my office. Thank you." She switched off the loud speaker.
A few minutes later there was a discreet knock at the door and Kelly's secretary took a single step in to lean forward and announce the woman's arrival. Kelly motioned to let her in and one of the military guards escorted a very small woman into the room.
Yevgeniya Milaszewiska was all of four-eleven and couldn't weight more than a hundred pounds. Her only large feature was on her chest. JP personally wondered how she stood upright being so top heavy. She had dirty blonde hair that just came to her shoulders and blue eyes. She would be quite pretty if she didn't look so damned serious.
Kelly dismissed the guard and the woman stepped forward eagerly. "Thank you so much for permitting me to meet with you, Cierra White."
Cierra held out her hand. "A pleasure. I'm sorry, but I'm afraid I am terrible with Slavic names. Do you have a less formal name we could be permitted to use?" She had met with one person from the USSR many years earlier and only remembered that their forms of address and names were complex, based on gender as well. The brief touch actually told her very little. The woman was a private person and had little use for people. Her love was for animals alone.
"I am accustomed to such a request since coming to this country, Cierra White. The named used often by my family I did not care for but they were family and we must tolerate these things. However, I have found the American name of 'Jenna' to be a pleasant substitute."
Cierra smiled. "A good choice as well. Well, Jenna, why don't you join us at the table?" She then introduced her wife and then Kelly, who Jenna had spoken to only on the phone.
The woman nodded briefly. She disliked formalities and wanted to bite into the bone. "I wish to join your colony, Cierra White."
"Just Cierra is fine. And you joining us is what we are trying to determine at the moment. Could you tell us why you wish to migrate to Mother Earth?"
The woman was silent, trying to form her reply in her head before answering. "For the animals, of course. I chose my vocation because animals have little say about their lives. They do not deceive and pretend to be other than what they are. But in my home the animals are only given care if they useful in some manner. Americans give such love to their animals and your people have no one to care for the injured ones."
Cierra nodded, understanding that and even admiring the woman's love of animals but she wanted to know more.
"This is somewhat a rude question but without the application in front of me I must ask. Are you a lesbian or at least tolerant of the lifestyle?"
The woman shrugged. "I would not know. I have never been drawn to anyone in that manner. As to tolerance, I care less what people do as long as they do not harm animals for pleasure."
JP spoke up. "I take it you aren't a fan of people in general."
The small woman looked perplexed, trying to determine what JP meant by her words. The dark-haired woman's voice held a tone of disapproval. "If you state that I care little for people then you are correct. I have been given more kindness from animals than people and they do not judge me." Cierra was certain that the last part was meant for all of them. The woman must have received a lot of negative experiences and felt judged unfavorably by many. Cierra felt compassion for the woman. She needed a place to heal her wounded spirit and find inner peace and acceptance. The people of Mother Earth could help her find that.
She nodded to the other two women and they knew her judgment.
"When can you pack and be ready to migrate, Jenna?"
The first quad home was finished being upgraded by the people who would be moving into it. the construction crew put up the basic walls and installed the pipes and fixtures but the families had to do the cob work on the inner walls and install the bamboo flooring themselves. They also had to make their own curtain dividers and build their own bed frames to sleep on.
The construction crew had Cierra transport an entire semi trailer full of cut bamboo poles to use in construction. Some were kept sealed in order not to dry out but the dried canes were easily split and used as flooring and roofing. damp strips of bamboo made excellent lashings that held everything together although they also used leather bindings and a few nails.
Once the cob had dried they were free to move in. The clay/sand/straw mixtures took several weeks to dry but made excellent soundproofing on the walls and insolated the walls from the cold and heat of outdoors. The cob was also fire retardant and could be shaped into shelving, seats, cubby holes, and built in boxes to hold firewood, etc.
Each unit held two beds with room for four beds if needed. Each also had a tiny brick fireplace in the corner to keep the families warm in the coldest weather. The large communal fireplace was large enough to cook, bake, and heat water for the tub and shower. Each quad building had a four person cement tub for soaking and a one person shower. Each family had its own flow toilet. A hand water pump was near the fireplace along with a galvanized, removable sink basin. There was also a wringer washer made by Maggie for each quad building to do laundry. Brenda had snagged a thick bamboo pole and cut it onto sections. The bamboo had natural dividers inside. She rubbed down the insides with sand to remove the bitter layer and placed the sections into a cob holder to use as canisters. They held the most used items such as salt, dried and grounded pepper, flour, cornmeal, tea leaves, and oats.
None of the buildings were luxurious but for a home that had no electricity it was cozy.
Robbie and Jonesy, the two tallest, were put in charge of putting up curtains and hanging items. Whitney watched the infants while the others carried over the possessions from the barracks and adobe homes. Children from other families happily helped bring in items such as firewood and collected the items Sharon issued to the families for their cooking needs. Tracy and Lisa filled the root cellar with the crocks and dried goods while Brenda and Mary set up bedding and brought in the furniture Brenda had made for the communal area. Sara and Eva helped fill the storage closets with people's clothing and baskets of assorted items to sort later.
Roberta brought over one of the mushroom lanterns for the communal area and instructed them how to maintain it. She would have them exchange it for another one each month so she could replace compost and such as needed. It was hung from a long rope from the ceiling.
Eva started a fire in the late afternoon to begin heating water and to have the group begin cooking their first meal in their new home. The eight women had agreed on two couples being in charge of breakfast and the other two would be in charge of dinner each night. This would last a month then they would exchange positions. That way they could take turns sleeping in just a bit later.
Being spring and heading into summer, the fire would be lit only in mornings to cook and late afternoon. The fireplace had a metal reflective plate to keep the heat aimed to the ovens, stove, and water heating. Bread making would still be left to Sharon's crew and the quad's oven was mostly for making casserole type meals. The occupants of the quad homes would still get their lunches at the communal hall.
Also during the summer, the mothers would take turns watching the babies but visit their children several times a day in order to breast feed. They did have formula and bottles if actually needed in an emergency but the mothers preferred breast feeding. None of the nursing mothers would be sent out of the village area on work crews until their children were weaned.
The two prefab bamboo homes were also put up just west of the village in a clearing. There was about fifty feet between them and each was surrounded by trees and brush. The cottages each had an outhouse downwind of it but each still had a fireplace, shower, and hand pump for water. It was basically a studio apartment that gave couples a chance to be alone.
Judy had so many requests that she had everyone draw lots. Surprisingly, several single women wanted a chance at it so they could have a day by themselves and away from everyone.
The first two couples who won the drawing was Mary and Sara and also Carla and her partner Rhonda. The happy couples packed a small bundle of items and waved smugly at the people remaining behind in the barracks.
The first of the mixed quad homes had the basics up and the families were busy plastering the walls with cob. The four original couples would get the first home while newer couples like Joseph and Ann would move into the old barracks together until the second building was completed. Joseph was happy to move into one of the other quarters after sharing living space with the five boys from the BOC. Ann would miss her little home but looked forward to formalizing her relationship with Joseph. She had been charmed by his sweet nature but frustrated over fact he wanted to get married before they became lovers. If they didn't marry soon she thought she'd burst into flames.
Those not busy working on the quad homes were helping in the fields, working in compost and plowing it roughly by hand until Maggie finished building their first steam tractor.
JP had discussed the complex engines with Eva after her talk with Michael Davies and agreed that although a nice design, they weren't quite the answer the US needed to ease the oil shortage and too complex for the colony's needs. Eva had suggested a basic steam engine that was fueled by alcohol rather than wood. Eva and Maggie had built the simple walking steam engine along with the gear and wheel system to propel the tractor.
The machine would till the soil and have enough power to harvest the grain crops one row at a time. The grain stalks would be bundled by hand but no one was complaining since the previous two years the wheat and barley had been cut with sickles.
The windmills built by Eva and Paul brought up water to irrigate the fields when needed and also filled the new water tower. Although it had been winter the group of builders had kept busy. The tower straddled the stream and had a hose long enough to reach all the buildings. The hose was one of the few things imported from the old world. Anything the colony could make would leak or rot too easily. The hose was stored in a waterproof box beneath the tower where it was high enough to prevent animals from reaching it.
With only three more quad units to go, the council was pleased with the amount of work being done. Having the work crew come in to build had given the women more time to get things accomplished without working themselves into the ground. Now they only had to attend the trading event at the end of the month and finish planting the crops. They would have breathing room after that and could bring in more of the selected people.
So far, Cierra had brought in Jenna, Tisha Randall (carpenter), Joanne Guernsey (eyeglass maker), Elaine Metz (chemist), Marilyn Ewing (Cabinet maker), and Debbie Chavez, the dentist from Ohio.
She would bring in five more after the next quad unit was completed on the women's side of the stream. With the influx of new women the single lesbians seemed to be on their best behavior and dressing a little nicer for dinner. Everyone was hoping to find someone special and didn't want to scare off any possibilities.
All the newcomers seemed to enjoy the attention except for Jenna, who kept to herself and rarely spoke.
The Russian woman sat as far from the others as she could. She was some what lost in the whirlwind of American women and was merely picking at her meal. A shadow fell across her but Jenna refused to look up, knowing it was another female trying her luck. Instead, a dish was placed in front of her. Jenna looked at it and saw a traditional pirozhki. She hadn't had one since she moved away from her parents. She glanced up and saw the cook's assistant smile shyly at her.
Hillary shrugged slightly. "I thought perhaps you were a bit homesick and made it for you." With that, Hillary walked away to return to the kitchen. Jenna stared at the meat pastry, feeling a bit of warm pleasure from the act. She lifted the still hot pastry and took a bite, enjoying the flavor that reminded her of home.
to be continued
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