CORINNA AND MARK
“You’re not going there. I won’t tell you again, don’t go there!”
“What are you going to do about it, lock me up? I’ll jump through the window! ”
Corinna looked her mother’s face defiantly. Her look revealed all the anger she was capable of at 16 years old.
“I love him and you can’t do anything about it.”
Her mother had become numb against such outbreaks. She would never have imagined her daughter’s puberty as exhausting. Her husband was of little help in this matter either.
“Go on, you deal with this, Jane. After all, you are both girls – my girls. ”
She fought off her husband’s half-hearted hug.
“That’s all you can do – make excuses!”
He didn’t enter into a discussion, but asked: “You stopped her?”
“What do I know, in any case she is not in her room!”
“Nobody is allowed to go out at the moment, what if she gets caught?”
“She’s meeting with this Mark guy!” Jane wanted her husband to feel her despair.
“But, you told her not to!”
“What do you mean I told her not to,” Jane shouted now. “You always leave everything to me. You don’t care how I feel, what I feel! ”
“Now don’t get hysterical again”. He looked at her with that look that made her shudder every time.
Corinna was still agitated by the argument with her mother. She hated her and was annoyed with herself at the same time because she couldn’t just forget the situation at home and look forward to the next few hours. Soon she would see Mark again and feel his arms around her…
Later, at home, the trouble would start again. Corinna angrily kicked a stone that was in the way. Why couldn’t she just enjoy the present without thinking about what would happen next?
“There you are!” Mark stepped out of the group of young people. He was older than the others. His casual movements came natural and were not rehearsed as was the case with many other guys trying to look cool. His voice sounded strong even though he spoke with a soft, gentle accent. Corinna liked to think that this gentleness was for her. So it hit her like a brutal blow when he said, “Honey, I think I have to get away from it all for a while.”
Corinna barely noticed her surroundings. She only replied mechanically to the greetings from the other young people who secretly met behind the supermarket in a small fallow forest. No one knew how long the curfew would last, and as long as the schools were closed, a few young people came here to officially do the shopping for their elder relatives and neighbours.
“We keep our distance,” they justified their illegal get-together, and for most of the time this was true.
picture source: Pabak Sarkar on flickr
Ben joined the group. His rucksack was full to the top, and three shopping bags revealed that he had been shopping in the supermarket.
“Because of this shit corona, I have to shop for all the old people in the neighbourhood!” It was clear to him that he was in a bad mood. “I cannot even go by car because the driving schools are closed and my driving test was canceled.” Then he noticed Mark, who was just about to move away from the group.
“I’m sorry, mate, that you had to leave but there was nothing I could do about it.”
“Did your father find out that we gambled on the computer in his name?”
“No, when the weather is nice, they all sit on the terrace until late, so he can’t gamble secretly on the computer. As soon as my father sees his account balance, I’m dead. Not to mention the anger I get because I knew and used the password. I can’t even ask Grandma if she can help me out once more with money. ”
“You gambled on the computer at Ben’s father’s expense? How much did you lose?”
Corinna was horrified, at the same time she felt a glimmer of hope. “Well, Mark, you cannot leave your friend alone. You should stay around and face the music together.”
“Sorry, mate.” Mark regretfully patted Ben on the shoulders, ignoring Corinna’s protest.
“I have to leave now, otherwise I’ll miss the bus.”
“You’re going by bus?” Another boy from the group asked in disbelieve.
“Do you think I can stay here in this small town without a place to sleep? I will be better off in the city. At least there I will find some buddies who are in the same position as me. ”
Corinna did not give up that easily: “But here you also know people, we are your friends, we will help you!”
“Don’t worry, I will be alright.” Mark turned away so that no one could see the expression on his face. “It’s time to go, I want to buy a few more cans of beer.” With that he started off towards the supermarket. He wanted to leave behind any feelings of guilt towards Corinna and Ben, as soon as possible.
Mark felt in his pocket for the two fifty-euro bills. This morning on his way out, he had stolen the money from the wallet of Ben’s mother. As an involuntary farewell gift, he thought to himself. He would need this money urgently he thought and then decided to do his shopping without touching the 100 pounds.
Photo: Franklin Hejnen auf Flickr
Mark reached the bus stop out of breath. He regretted having to spend the money for a ticket, but travel without paying was not possible on the bus. At least he would be able to sleep on the trip. He was so tired. Tired of having to say ‘thank you’ every morning for the bed and the food that friends had given him. He would try his luck on his own.
He had completely forgotten about the debts to his dealer. However, he was reminded very suddenly when he saw the four figures approach and the first blow hit him painfully in the stomach.
Photo: miggslives photograph at Flickr
The second blow hit him in the face. The pain shot like an arrow from the nose straight into his brain. Mark tasted the iron in his blood. Only then did he understand what was happening to him. He couldn’t fight back, because two of the guys held him while the others hit him. They were beating him in silence and with a precision that indicated that they had a lot of practice. While waiting for the next blow, Mark wished that he would finally be allowed to lose consciousness.
“Thanks for your help guys,” Mark slowly found his speech again.
“Actually, it was Corinna who saved you. She followed you to the bus stop and saw what happened. She screamed for help and made such a racket that the guys ran away. ”
“Let’s get you up from the cold floor.” Together they hoisted Mark onto the seat of the bus stop. He immediately felt dizzy again. Blood flowed from the nose and out of a wound in his head.
“That will need stiches, you could also have internal injuries.” Corinna pulled out her cell phone and started dialing the emergency number.
Mark tried to stop her. “Don’t do that. Going to hospital is a really bad idea. They are all overcrowded with corona patients. ”
Corinna shook her head. “Come on, these are just rumors, the government wants to distract from its own failure.”
Ben disagreed. “Haven’t you seen the pictures? I hardly believe that those in power use army trucks to transport the dead and burry corpses in mass graves for fun.”
“So who are these powerful people anyway?” One of the boys wanted to know.
“Well, those who have an interest that everything stays calm, they want to make sure there are no looting and uprisings. They don’t want us to know what really happened. ”
The bus came, stopped briefly and continued. These days there weren’t any passengers
There were a few passers-by who generously kept the officially prescribed distance from the group of young people. Nobody cared about the bleeding young man. Instead disapproving comments could be heard such as “no meetings allowed” and “…reckless behavior.”
Ben did not take notice of his environment. He had his firm ideas about politics and once he started he kept going: “… it is clear to me that this whole Corona-disaster has been caused by a nasty virus that escaped from a laboratory somewhere in the world. Whether this happened by accident or on purpose does not really matter.”
“Oh please! Shut up. Your conspiracy theories don’t help right now!” Corinna wanted to be alone with Mark. Somehow she would find a solution that would allow Mark to stay with her.
Ben and the other two boys looked at Mark. “All right, go and leave us,” Mark said and everyone except Corinna left.
“How do you feel?”
Mark would have liked to enjoy Corinna’s tender love and care. But with what lay ahead for him, it didn’t help being a sissy.
“I’m okay, it nearly stopped bleeding and it hardly hurts anymore.” He gave her the best smile he could. Being a little nice to Corinna couldn’t do any harm.
Corinna still worried: “The wounds can become infected and some scars will remain.”
“And then, if I am no longer good looking, won’t you love me anymore?” As soon as he had uttered these words Mark wished he would have kept them to himself.
“I have never felt for anybody what I feel for you!”
“I’m sorry to have to tell you loving me is a waste of time.” Markus moved away from Corinna, his face contorted with pain, he didn’t let go of her hand.
“You always pretend to be so tough, you grew up in children’s homes and there it was certainly necessary to show strength. But I know your heart is soft and big. ”
“In these times, it doesn’t pay to be good. Besides, in the last home it wasn’t that bad.”
“Why then did you run away from there?”
“As soon as I turned 18, they would have kicked me out anyway. Then Chris, the only carer who ever really took an interest in me, changed his job and I preferred to go as well.”
Markus managed a little smile and continued. “As far as I am concerned, this small town has nothing to offer. Everyone knows me and looks at me with suspicion.”
An elderly couple with masked faces came along. When they noticed Markus and Corinna, they moved demonstratively across the street.
“I could come with you”, Corinna suggested.
It had been hard work to talk her out of this idea. Eventually she made him take one of the silly face masks Corinna’s grandma had sown from scraps of cloth for all of her grandchildren. When she wanted to give him the rest of her pocket money, he refused. Clawing in the supermarket and even steeling the money from Ben’s parents was one thing. To rip off a woman – that’s where it stopped for Markus.
He had concealed from Corinna that the guys found the hundred euros when they beat him up. So he had only a little change left in his pocket and started to walk by foot the 30 km to the big city.
He wouldn’t be able to make it in day light. Suddenly a rusty van stopped. The driver was from Romania and spoke broken English.
“I also had to walk a lot before I got this car”, he said cheerfully. “I Cosmo,” he said, visibly enjoying the fact that he could prevent Markus from having to go by foot.
They began to talk about the current situation during the corona crisis as best as Cosmo’s limited English would allow. “Yes, bad here, but much worse in America, keep corpses in trucks in freezers. Soon worse, like in South America – dead people lie on the street and are set on fire by family because nobody buries them. ”
Photo: Georg Sanders on Flickr
Markus felt uneasy. He did not know what to think about the Corbit 19 crisis, especially about the reporting. He was extremely critical of official news channels and television journalists. He couldn’t make up his own mind. The virus had not yet reached the small town. Markus did not know personally any sick or deceased person.
Eventually Cosmo’s happy nature regained the upper hand: They were passing two women standing at the only traffic light of a small village. Cosmo gestured in her direction. “But there is also funny side. No hairdressers open. Women’s hair looks like old toilet brushes! ”
They reached the city at dusk. The van stopped in a parking lot near the train station with groaning brakes. Markus thanked the driver and wanted to give him something in return. All he could think of was the mask made from colorful scraps of fabric. Cosmo said, “No, I don’t want mask. Can’t breathe,. Must be free. ”
Markus shrugged, raised his hand for a last greeting, turned and started walking.
“Hey boy where are you going?” Cosmo leaned against the car door. The tip of his tongue pressed through the gap where he lacked an incisor.
“Don’t you have a home? Come with me.”
Photo: Jaroslav A. Pólak on Flickr
A lively conversation ensued between the two men in their mother tongue. Markus realized from the gestures that it was about him. “My cousin, Pavel, says it’s ok, you sleep here.”
Cosmo pointed to one of the bunk beds, which had neither a mattress nor bedding, and Markus braced himself for an uncomfortable, cold night on this bare bed frame.
Pavel grumbled a few sentences towards the guest and made an inviting gesture to a pot that was also on the table on a single electric hob.
The contents of the pot reminded Markus of ravioli in tomato sauce, but it smelled very different.
Although Markus was very hungry, he thankfully declined the offer. Pavel shrugged and said something in Cosmo’s direction. He nodded and turned to his guest: “We are tired, sleep now, work at half past five tomorrow morning. I’m going to show you the washroom now? ”
They had to walk back a little way from the long corridor on which they had come. “Where are you working, the whole country has shut down?”
“Who shot?” Cosmo looked blank.
“I mean, everything is closed because of the corona crisis, nobody works, everyone is at home.”
“For us nothing corona crisis.” Cosmo whistled through his tooth gap.
“If we no work tomorrow, no food the day after tomorrow and no food for family in Romania next month. Then Corona doesn’t matter. ”
Markus would have liked to know what kind of jobs his hosts did. But Cosmo didn’t understand his question, at least he pretended not to.
When he returned, Cosmo, Pawel and three other roommates were already in bed. The table was cleared, the plate and pot were clean next to the hot plate. The men snored. Only Cosmo was still awake, pointing to the only empty bed that was now equipped with a mattress and some blankets.
“Noapte buna,” he said, turning to the wall.
When Markus woke up, there was no one in the room except him. Before he could think about any further steps, he had to go to the toilet. The sanitary facilities were in bad shape. There was no toilet paper.
He was on his way back when suddenly the most beautiful girl he had ever seen stood in the hallway. She was also surprised, which made her eyes look indescribably large and dark. Slim and tall, she stood perfectly still in a cone of light shining on the floorboards through the dirty window. Her name was Roxana.
Photo: Mike on Flickr
Corinna was annoyed. At the beginning, she had tried to do all the tasks that the teachers had posted on the newly established school platform. It was just like in real life classes. Some teachers took care of their students and put a lot of effort in their tasks and the corrections, while others were content with short emails that simply referred to some page in the textbook. Corinna suspected that it didn’t really matter whether she did the work or not. The assignments were as boring as they always were at school, and she was missing the comforting personal contact with her classmates.
“Are you going to be ready soon? When Dad comes, we want to have dinner! ” Her mother said the last sentence with the door half closed. Still, Corinna noticed the swollen eyes.
She felt no pity. “I’m not asking you how far you’ve got with your home office work!”, she countered, putting as much contempt in her words as possible.
“Does your boss actually know how ‘conscientiously’ you write down your working hours? And when dad is in a bad mood because of his short-time work, I am certainly not going to be rushed. I am not afraid of dad!”
“Why should you be afraid of your father?”
“Unlike you I’m not!”
“What are you talking about, please, show some respect!”
“Oh mom, do you think I can’t see how it is between you and dad? You either argue or there is just silence, especially in the evenings it is very bad.”
“Rubbish, your father and I have been married for twenty years.”
“That’s not the point, what I am saying is, that if someone is afraid of dad, it is you!”
“Stop it now,” Jane Johnson was really angry.
Jane Johnson saw herself unable to send her daughter to her room, so she got up herself, went to the fridge and poured a glass of wine. Corinna rolled her eyes and went upstairs on her own accound.
“Do you think your father beats your mother?” Alicia-Sophie was lying on her bed skyping with her best friend.
“I don’t think so.” Corinna sat cross-legged. “I surely would have noticed something
“Not necessarily, some do it so cleverly that the slabs leave no traces. Domestic violence occurs in the best of families. ”
“Stop talking nonsense, something is wrong with my parents, they fight but they don’t hit each other.”
Both girls checked their cell phone messages for a while.
“I’ll never marry,” Alicia-Sophie finally said. “My cousin has a baby son. They live in a tiny apartment and since corona has forced them to stay indoors the whole day and with the kindergarden being closed, it is particularly difficult for them. ”
“What about the father?”
“He disappeared and I am telling you, she is about to go crazy. She can’t even go jogging because there is no one to take care of the little one. Last week she was so desperate
“Well, that’s one way to stay fit.”
Both girls were relieved that their mood had improved again.
Corinna became thoughtful. “I do believe in love.” It sounded more enthusiastic than she had anticipated.
“Well, you are lucky, you have Marc. He is so handsome!”
“Looking good isn’t all that matters.”
“Now you get dreamy googly eyes again.”
Corinna threw a pillow at the screen. Alicia-Sophie continued: “Have you heard anything from Markus since he left?”
“Not yet, he will have problems charging his cell phone.”
“Do you have something to smoke?” Corinna jumped up from the bed and started pacing up and down between the door and the window.
Alicia-Sophie grinned: “I still have two smileys. They were meant for the next party. ”
“Sometimes I wonder whether there will ever be parties again.”
“Do you have to shop for your old people today? If so we could meet behind the supermarket,” Alicia-Sophie suggested to her friend.
“My mother goes shopping herself again. Since the government decided to ease the lockdown measures, she thinks that Corona is not so dangerous after all, only I should stay at home. ” Corinna’s mood was at a low again.
Photo: Sharon Vos – Arnold on Flickr
“I’m going to try the English homework,” Alicia-Sophie changed the subject. “What were the rules again for writing up a summary?”
“Stop talking about that crap! Do you seriously believe the teachers correct all the stuff we are sending them on the school platform?” Corinna laid back on the bed while holding a plush teddy bear in the stranglehold.
“I definitely want to get my GCSEs,” Alicia-Sophie felt the need to defend her eagerness to learn.
Corinna was skeptical. “It is still unclear whether the exams will take place at all. I also need to get good school qualifications so that I can start an apprenticeship and leave home.” With a sweeping arm movement, Corinna encompassed the entire room and her entire world, which had become too small.
“As soon as I can, I’ll move together with Marc,” said Corinna. With these prospects the future seemed brighter again. “I have got an idea, let’s get a juice and we’ll drink it to the next party, whenever and wherever it will take place – and to the waiting smileys.”
Corinna made her way to the refrigerator. She stopped on the landing when she heard her mother speaking to her friend on the phone. “Whether you like it or not,” she was saying, “in the corona crisis you are going to learn the truth about your own relationship.”
Jane was seated in one of the armchairs next to the table with her knitting basket. They were watching television.
Today was one of those evenings when John Johnson sat upright instead of lying as usual across the entire couch surface. He patted on the space next to him.
“The place next to me is empty, so I want my Jane here!”
His tone made it clear to his wife, this was not a wish that could be contradicted. Jane put the needles back in the basket and rose from her chair. Although both parents smiled, Corinna’s stomach tightened.
“The news are annoying. They only talk about the ‘Corona Virus’. Politicians are no longer concerned with people’s health, they just concentrate on their own careers. ”
Corinna was happy, the conversation between her parents seemed to develop peacefully. She decided to participate. “Have politicians ever been interested in anything other than their inflated egos?”
Jane Johnson moved away from her husband and turned to Corinna. “At the beginning of the Corona crisis, I felt that the different parties were working together to find jointly solutions to the problems that suddenly threatened the human race..”
“Stop talking nonsense!” John said.
photo: Josh on Flickr
Jane felt the need to explain herself.
“For a short while political discussions were not as aggressive as usual. Politicians seemed to enjoy not having to constantly fight with each other. There was real cooperation.”
“What country do you live in?”
John’s mouth narrowed and his eyes looked angry.
“Politicians and cooperation? These are two terms that don’t go together. ”
He seemed to be thinking of something. “What the heck,” he said.
John moved again closer to his wife. “Let’s finish watching the news. After that I will be tired.”
Jane avoided looking into his eyes.
Corinna’s cell phone blinked. “I’m going to my room, good night.”
She trudged up the stairs while staring at her cell phone. There were some new messages, but none from Marc. It was long overdue. Corinna went through feelings of chaos. Within seconds her irrepressible anger at Marc for not answering disappeared and she plunged into deep fear that something terrible might have happened to him. She made it to her room just before the tears came.
John did not react to Corinna’s departure. It suited him well that he was now alone in the room with Jane. “Fifteen tones of pink is now awailable on Netflix. I have been looking forward to watching this film with you. ”
Jane looked at her husband in amazement. “While our daughter is in her room upstairs, you are thinking about watching pornographic films?” She wanted to shout at him, but couldn’t find any more words. In all the years they had been married, she had never learned to really talk about intimate things. Jane was aware that this was the reason behind many of her difficulties.
John did not give up that quickly.
“Come on, this film is harmless. Besides, we could go upstairs. Corinna is busy with her cell phone. ”
Jane panicked. No, it wasn’t just her fault. She didn’t have to put up with everything. She made no longer efforts to hide her agitation.
“I don’t feel well, I need fresh air.”
Her husband made one last attempt. “We could go for a walk together!”
When he was in this mood, there was nothing to be achieved with words and tears did not help either. In the past Jane had mostly given in.
Without another word, Jane left the house. She sat down on a bench in a park that was a little off the path. So she ran no risk of meeting acquaintances. Her thoughts whirled wildly and turned into feverish fireworks. The top of her skull threatened to shatter. She felt the pressure and all the tensions of the past few weeks that she had spent in the cramped area of her apartment with her husband without having any other significant contact. She realized that she could no longer pretend her marital relationship was ok.
Then she decided to cry.
Then she noticed the sticker with the phone number of the Samaritans on a wastebasket.
The man on the other end of the line had a warm and gentle voice. He introduced himself as Jacob.
“In our organization, it is customary to be on first name terms. This is more personal. Of course only if that’s okay for you. ”
Jane was shocked by her own courage to have dialed this number and entrusted herself to a total stranger. “Well, I don’t mind ..”
“Ok, so it’s Jane and Jacob then.”
“I can’t give you any advice as to whether you should split up. You have find the answer to this question yourself. ” Jacob spoke calmly and with a slight dialect that reminded Jane of her hometown.
While Jacob didn’t seem to mind that there were longer gaps in their conversation, Jane grew impatient. She had found the courage to dial the telephone counseling service, to reveal her innermost self to a stranger and to talk about intimate marriage problems that she had never shared with anyone. Now she was expecting more than compassionate statements, she wanted specific help and advice on how to proceed.
She wanted Jacob not only to repeat her request in terms of content, but to support her so that she could feel her needs were justified.
“Jane, it’s not my place to judge whether your spouse’s claims are justified. You have a right to your own emotions. Feelings are neither bad nor good, they are just there. Try to find out what the real needs are behind your anger. ”
Initially it was difficult for her to put so many emotions into words, but finally the sentences came spilling out and were only interrupted by sobs from time to time.
“Listen to your heart. If the things that happen between you and your husband are ok for both of you, then it’s no other person’s business. Nobody has the right to judge. ” He cleared his throat. “However, if you feel uncomfortable in the situation you find yourself in and do not find it possible to have an open conversation with your husband, you should change something in your life. In this case, I wish you all the strength you need. ”
“After so many years, I don’t know what I really want and what I’ve just got used to out of necessity!”
There was yet another pause, then Jacob said: “In order to find out what it is that you really want you need to become calm inside until you hear your inner voice and then listen to it.”
Jane felt dizzy when she finally made her way home. It had gone dark and Jane was startled when she checked her watch. After all, she had run out of the house without a word of explanation.
Her husband came to meet her even before she opened the garden gate.
“Finally, where have you been, I have been trying to reach you on your phone!”
John was in a terrible state.
His arms waved wildly and uncoordinated through the air. He ran ahead of Jane into the house, then turned back to her and started running again. Jane soon realized that this excitement could not have been caused by her short-term absence.
“Corinna,” John stammered again and again. His eyes were red and swollen. He had buttoned his cardigan wrongly. Jane detected a light smell of alcohol in his breath. She grabbed her husband by the shoulders, turned him around and shouted: “What about Corinna?” John calmed down to the point that he was able to utter a few clear sentences.
“This friend of hers, this Alina-Sophie or whatever her name is, called and said there was something wrong with Corinna. They had been talking to each other all evening when the conversation suddenly broke off. ”
John wept uncontrollably. Jane rushed up the stairs, turned on her heel, and shouted, “What’s wrong with Corinna?”
John pulled himself together and followed his wife. “It was only after two hours that Sophie finally decided to ring us. You weren’t here.” John sobbed and coughed. “I went to her room right away. Jane, our daughter is lying motionless on her bed and I can’t wake her up! ”
The story ends here – for now . What will happen next? Will Corinna recover? Will Jane and John stay together or separate? How will Mark fare in the city? Will he and Corinna find each other again and what about Roxana? All of these questions will be answered elsewhere in due course. Today I would like to thank everyone who has followed this story, which takes place in a special time, of which no one knows how it will develop. Stay healthy.
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