Posts Tagged ‘Noszvaj’

“A Kapitany”, Chapter 34…..

February 17, 2013

…. with a little bad language, but only in Hungarian.

I am having a lot of fun with this novel. And, I have heard recently that Hungarians are also reading these few chapters on the blog and liking the story. That means a lot. I knew that since I started posting chapters of “A Kapitany” I had readers in Hungary. That was important to me. Some of them wrote and kindly corrected some of the sentences I used in Hungarian…a very difficult language. My father’s family is Hungarian and I was raised around that complex language, but it certainly was a boon for Hungarians to give me advice on the language.

I wanted to see if what I was writing struck a spark of recognition in these readers. Of course, it’s fiction, but every writer writes from fact and experience. Or tries to.

I have almost finished the book. It’s been a long haul but now the hard work: rewrite.

Some clues to readers who haven’t been following this story: Vadas Dohendy is an art thief. He works for Miklos Karkas, who is a bigger art thief. Vadas has left Miklos’ employ and gone back to his vineyard in Noszvaj, near Eger, Hungary. He wants a new life, and Elizabeth is his way out…or an excuse. Elizabeth many chapters back was kidnapped by Miklos Farkas and his hired thugs. Both men have their own hired thugs and are gunning for each other. Playing cat and mouse, but each has a reason to kill the other. So far, the Eger/Budapest police are waiting for them to kill each other. It makes their jobs a lot easier.

Farkas means ‘wolf” in Hungarian. Vadas means “hunter”. Wolves feature heavily in earlier chapters of this novel. Grey and black wolves. Vadas told Elizabeth that black wolves come from Transylvania and grey wolves are Hungarian. Miklos Farkas originated from Transylvania, or his family did. There’s a snarling black wolf head in the hall of the lodge in Noszvaj that scares Elizabeth every time she sees it. Vadas has it there for a reason.


A Kapitany, Chapter 34

It was raining the next morning. It pelted the roof, drummed loud enough to be ‘white noise’ coming from a cd.
Vadas opened one eye, saw the gloom of the morning and curled himself around Elizabeth.

Elizabeth woke up, yawned and stretched. “Come on, it’s morning. It’s late. Get up.”

Vadas buried his head in her hair. “No, I want to stay in bed all day. You, too.”

“Vadas, don’t be silly. There are plenty of things to do today.”

“What? You got someone to visit? You want to go shopping?”

Elizabeth yawned. “No. I have no where to go. But we could do something.”

“You can scratch my back. Massage my shoulders. Maybe you trim my toenails.” He snuggled down in the covers and tightened his arm around her.

“I don’t trim your toenails, Vadas. Even if we marry, I don’t do that.”

“What? A wife does these things for the husband.”

“I’m not your wife, yet, remember?”

“So? You are in training, no?”

“Hah. Come on, Vadas. I’ll get you some coffee.”

“Good. Bring back the pot.”

Elizabeth went downstairs and poured two mugs of coffee. On the way back she looked out the window at the top of the staircase. It was pouring outside. Perhaps Vadas was right. Perhaps it was a good day to do nothing.

Vadas was sitting up in bed, scratching his chest. Elizabeth handed him his mug and sat down in a chair by the window, sipping the hot coffee gingerly.

“It’s too wet to go visit the grapes, Elizabeth,” he said mournfully.

“Ok. Why don’t we go into Eger and see what furniture your aunts have stored in that warehouse?”

“We could do that. You could pick what you wanted for the house.” Vadas yawned. “We could also stay right here in bed.” He patted the bed beside him.

“Vadas, we don’t have a lot of time before the wedding. If you are serious about making the house livable, it’s going to take a lot of time and attention. The roofers should be coming soon, right?”

“Ah, we can go up there today and see where the rain is coming in, Elizabeth. Good idea. First, take care of your man.” Vadas grinned over his mug.

‘You are going to wear me out before we get married.”

“Yes I am. Aren’t you a lucky woman? The ló fasz is lonely.”

“You’re a maniac, Vadas. Later, sweetie, maybe this evening. I want to get some things done today.”

“As long as you remember the ‘later’, Elizabeth.”

“I’m going to take a shower.”

“Good, I’ll join you.”

“Nothing doing, Vadas. You know what happens when you butt into my shower.”

Vadas smiled, finishing the last of his coffee.

“Listen, Elizabeth, before you go shower, I’ve been thinking. The reception? We need a big place. We can rent a hotel, or we can open part of the house. You want to live there, right? Well, we can fix up the roof. We can have people come in and repair some of the rooms. We can have chairs and tables rented. We can make part of the house livable. What do you think?”

Elizabeth stopped where she was. “Vadas? Can you afford to do this? You know that roof will cost a lot of money. And we have to agree we don’t touch the murals. We need a conservator to look at them. They might be of historic value. We don’t want to rush things. Is the house even wired for enough electricity? What about bathrooms? You are planning on, what? Two, three hundred people?”

“Elizabeth. I would be expected to have at least that many. This whole village and people from Budapest and Eger. It will be a crowd. For three days.”

Elizabeth’s mouth fell open. “Vadas. Some people will have to be put up for that long. At least those from Budapest. Your aunties and my Aunt Irene for much longer.”

“We can put a tent on the grounds. We can have people from out of town stay here. It would be tight, but Maria and Janos will arrange. As for toilets? They can use the bushes.”

“Oh, stop it, Vadas”, said Elizabeth laughing in spite of herself. “Be practical. And the food? We need a wedding planner. We need caterers. We need someone who knows what to do.”

“Ok. Hire someone. Vadas pays.”

Elizabeth shook her head in disbelief and went to take her shower. Vadas picked up a paper and started to read.

Vadas’ cell buzzed. It was Andor. Miklos was seen in Eger. Vadas sat up, and swung his legs over the side of the bed.

“What are you saying? When? When was he seen?” Vadas stood up and paced while he was talking.

“Ok, ok. This changes plans for today. I have to get rid of Elizabeth. No, no. She wants to come into Eger, but that can’t happen. Yes, get Marcus and some of the other men here. I want at least two men here in the house, and two parked near the house. If Miklos is around, Elizabeth is in danger. No, I will meet you in half an hour, maybe a little more. Ok. I’ll unlock the gun cabinet in the hall. You know what to do.”

Vadas put the phone down on the nightstand. So, the bastard had surfaced and he was right under his nose. Now he had to convince Elizabeth to stay here, and not ask questions. But she would be alarmed with two other men in the house. She wasn’t stupid. She would know something was up.

Maria. She would help. Vadas threw on clothes and went down to find Maria. Janos and Maria were both in the kitchen drinking coffee.

“Good. I’m glad I caught both of you. Janos, Miklos was seen in Eger. I ‘m going there. There will be four men here, two in the house, and two parked nearby. Just in case. Maria? I need you to keep Elizabeth under your thumb. Perhaps she can help in the kitchen? I don’t want her alarmed, but these men here? She will know something’s afoot.” Vadas shrugged his shoulders.

Janos nodded. Maria wasn’t so easy.

“Vadas. Elizabeth will know. She will be scared. I’m afraid for you. Don’t do this, Vadas. You don’t know what Miklos is planning or how many men he has. Please, Vadas, don’t go after Miklos now. Let the police handle it.”

“If the police get involved, I will go down with Miklos.”

Janos spoke. “Maria. This is Vadas’ decision. You, woman, stay out of it. You just keep Elizabeth busy until the smoke clears.”

“Son? What are you going to do?”

Vadas turned in the doorway and looked at Janos. “I don’t know. Maybe beat him up. Maybe cut off his dick. Maybe I kill him. I don’t know, Janos. But I won’t go easy on Miklos. That’s if I find him.”

Vadas picked up Andor and Tomas, another man who knew what Miklos had done. Andor filled Tomas in about the sighting of Miklos. They got to Eger fast, Vadas driving like a maniac. They met the man saying Miklos had been seen. He had disappeared, though someone had followed. Vadas turned and punched the wall of a building, cursing his head off. Bad move, as he skinned his knuckles. Shoving his hand in his mouth, he looked at Andor.

“This seggfej is screwing with me.” Vadas lunged at the man, anger contorting his face.

Andor and Tomas grabbed Vadas by the shoulders and arms, holding him back.

“Vadas! Stop it. Don’t kill the messenger, you shit head,” hissed Andor.

The man went pale. He stepped back.

Vadas shook his head, recovering himself and held out his hand.

“Sorry. I lost my head.”

The man didn’t take his hand, his eyes flashing anger. Andor stepped in front of Vadas and put his arm around the man’s shoulder. He led him away and spoke quietly to him. Andor slipped something into his hand. The man looked back at Vadas and nodded.

“Maybe I should stay here and tail him myself.”

“No, Vadas. Miklos wanted you to know he was here. He’s playing cat and mouse. Go home and wait. He probably will do this again. We will get him. Just be patient.”

Vadas looked at Andor and Tomas and sighed. “You’re probably right. Miklos always was a tok feju. I just lost my head. I can’t afford to do that again.”


Elizabeth found the gun cabinet opened and guessed something was happening. Maria hadn’t said a word, but Janos was smoking in the kitchen, something Maria forbade him doing. They realized she knew something and tried to take her mind off Vadas’ absence. Elizabeth had already seen Marcus sitting in the hall in a chair. He nodded to her and Elizabeth could see he was armed. She walked to the gun cabinet and looked for a small pistol. Vadas’ guns were too big for her but she was damned if she was going to be unarmed. Marcus came to her and in bad English asked her what she was looking for. She said “gun” and he rolled his eyes. She opened the bureau next to the cabinet and rummaged around. She found a small .38 and opening it, saw it was unloaded. She found five bullets that fit. She flipped it closed and stuck it in the back pocket of her jeans. Marcus winked and nodded at her and went back to his seat. Elizabeth went into the kitchen, pulling her sweater down so the gun didn’t show on her butt. Maria didn’t notice, but Janos did. He smiled to himself and puffed on his cigarette. This was no helpless, dumb American woman.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2013

“A Kapitany” (The Captain), Chapter 33

February 9, 2013


I started “A Kapitany” in 2007, left it and only came back to it this late fall. The general theme of bdsm had changed, had blossomed into something very different. Doing a lot of research on Europe and especially Hungary after WWII, and especially reading Keith Lowe’s book: “Savage Continent” made an impact. It also gave me a framework to revamp and complete this novel. To say that it changed is understating it. I became more interested in what was happening post Nazi, post Soviet, with the people of Hungary. It gave rewards in what had become a love story deepened. The influence of Be Bop, popular music of the 50’s and 60’s on Hungarian people was also interesting to me. This chapter has a nod towards that.

I think the strength of the Hungarian people and these characters comes from what happened to Hungary. War tears up society, but it also reshapes it. There is a caution though: today the rise of the right wing in Hungarian society and politics is is showing it’s head again. It stands as a warning to all of us that the destruction of WWII could happen again.

Lady Nyo

A Kapitany, Chapter 33

It was after three in the afternoon when Vadas returned from seeing Zoltan. He walked into the kitchen, looking for Elizabeth. Maria was stirring a pot on the stove.

“Maria, have you seen Elizabeth around?” He threw himself in a chair and bumped his shin on the stretchers of the oak table. It was scarred with knife cuts and pot burns. He remembered adding his own carvings with a knife Janos had given him when he was ten years old. Vadas traced a ‘bad word’ with his finger. He got belted from Janos for that trick. Maria had to cook and look at that all day, Janos said.

“Elizabeth was here in the kitchen, but my English and her Hungarian weren’t good enough to talk. She did knead some dough. Her wrist is hurting her, Vadas. She needs to take better care of it.”

“Yeah, she needs to stop beating me up. That will help her wrist.” Maria laughed.

“Perhaps if you speak only Hungarian she will learn faster?”

Maria poured a cup of coffee for him from the percolator on the back of the big stove. Vadas wanted to replace that old Aga with a new electric one, but Maria wouldn’t hear of it. She was used to this stove and too old to change. Janos kept a low fire burning in it throughout the night. Maria claimed only good bread, decent enough to eat could come from these old stoves. The new stoves made ‘store bought’ bread.

“Where have you been all day? The girl wasn’t easy with you gone.”

“I was seeing Zoltan, Maria.”

“And how is he?” Maria wiped her hands on her apron and sat down at the table.

“He’s doing pretty well. He’s lost weight and is pale, but his spirits are good.”

Vadas sipped at his hot coffee. He liked it strong and black. Maria was the only one who made decent coffee, strong enough for him.

“When I was visiting the aunties, they told me something. Zoltan is my half brother.”

“I knew.”

“What! Am I the only person on earth who doesn’t?” Vadas put his cup down and splattered the table.

“I nursed him as I nursed you.” Maria wiped up the coffee. “Your mother didn’t have enough milk when either of you were born. Let me see. Zoltan is about four years older? I forget. And you were born after your father returned from that work camp.”

“What happened to your baby, Maria?”

“They both died, Vadas. I was raped by a Russian soldier after the war. The baby was stillborn. I had milk but not much else. Zoltan’s father hunted in the mountains. He saved a lot of people around here. All the other men were either off fighting the war, or in the labor camps, like the one your father was in. But that was later. I was too young to carry that first baby. But I had milk. I was given Zoltan. Years later, when your mother had you, I moved in with her and your father and nursed you. You were a fat baby then.” Maria looked at Vadas over her cup. “You’re getting fat again.”

Vadas pounded his stomach. “It’s all muscle. Women get fat. Men get muscle.” Maria laughed.

“Tell me more, Maria. Tell me about those early years.”

“So much happened during the war years, Vadas. There were no men around. We did all the labor, plus the work of women. I was so young then, not even seventeen, and after the first baby? Well, I was lonely, too. So many had died around me. The old people were dying off from disease and the famine. There were no doctors. I thought if I had a baby I wouldn’t be so alone. This second baby died, and then not long after I met Janos. He was coming home from the war. He walked for months, hiding out in forests and caves. It was a miracle he made it back. So many didn’t. Your father came home but he was a broken man.” Maria sipped her coffee.

“But you never had another child?”

“No, those two were all I had in me. I grew attached to Zoltan. They took him away. Some aunt raised him.”

She sighed. “I was attached to you, too, but your aunties took you to France with your mother. You were just a baby. I cried so much, but I wasn’t wanted by them. I begged and pleaded to take me. When your mother came back with you after a few years, you had grown into a little boy and didn’t remember your old nurse. You were scared of everyone. You cried at the drop of a feather.”

“Living with Aunt Margit probably gave me reason.” Vadas laughed uneasily.

“It’s God’s miracle, Vadas, that both of you boys survived. More than half of the children in Noszvaj didn’t. I remember gathering grass and boiling it with any roots we could find to make soup. Some of the barn cats, the ones we could catch, went into the soup. We ate up the kittens first, then the rats. We ate anything to survive, shoe leather and bits of old harness. But we stopped that in winter when we had no more shoes.”

Vadas looked at the fat, old grey cat sitting on the ledge of the window. Maria smiled and sipped her coffee.

“You know, Vadas. Your Elizabeth will never know or understand what happened here, or what happened across Europe. The war was terrible, but after the war? It was worse than hell. It never really ended. Not for another ten years. It was sect after sect, different militias battling each other. We were in the middle. We were expendable. Partisans took their revenge on everyone. One village raided and slaughtered another. I saw men and women tied together by the Red army soldiers and thrown in the river to drown. We were rounded up and made to watch this. Men had their eyes gouged out and bugs put in their sockets and then sewn up. There were always enough ‘others’ to slaughter for no reason. Even the priests were hung. I remember women and children from another village locked in a church and set on fire. What happened after war was madness. This whole country reverted to savages. That was what we lived with. Your Elizabeth will never understand this, even if she reads a hundred books.”

Vadas shook his head. He knew the stories. The older people, they couldn’t forget them, and why should they? Perhaps in the remembering, in the telling, it made them grateful for life, for survival. Perhaps they also didn’t want to let old wounds heal, either. He wondered. They were the fallow ground, just waiting for blood, these memories, these stories, the next ethnic cleansing, and the next war. He was a man, had served a short time in the defense force. He knew how brutal men were. It could happen again.

No, this wasn’t Elizabeth’s war. And they weren’t her memories. But as she learned the language and lived here, she would hear them. He knew the resentment the Americans didn’t stop any of this. How could they? Hungary was Russia’s spoils of war.

Maria poured more coffee. They sipped in silence, thinking of the past.

“I asked Zoltan to move in here. He refused. He says he’s comfortable where he is and too old to move. I will deed over the lodge to him. Of course, you and Janos will live here until you die. You are as much part of this family as he.”

“We know, Vadas,” said Maria patting his hand. “You always have been good to us. Janos and I have no worries about that. We do worry about your woman. She’s been through a lot, yes?”

“I will deal with it. Talking with Zoltan today gives me new ideas.”

“You protect yourself, Vadas. Whatever it is you are planning, you protect yourself. You will have a new wife. Maria crossed herself. “Don’t leave this one a widow.”

Vadas changed the subject. “We have been talking about bringing her old auntie over from the States. She won’t want to live in Hungary. Elizabeth says she will stay probably a month. I can’t see her elderly auntie making that trip for just a month.”

“As long as she stays out of my kitchen, I will make her welcome.”

Vadas laughed. Two women in one kitchen was trouble. Three? God Almighty. He would move in with Zoltan.
“I have a lot of work to do, Maria.” Vadas got up, leaned over Maria and kissed her on the forehead. The things he learned in the last 24 hours! Ah, life was complex and too many secrets were kept in the dark.

He looked in on Elizabeth and found her sleeping. She looked tired even in sleep. Watching her he saw her mouth move and hear her murmurings. She was dreaming of something.

He sat down at his desk. There was much to do for the vines, always the vines. He needed to calculate the amount of fertilizer to use. Zoltan usually did that, not by a process of math, but by experience. He had rows and hills stretching out across the valley, almost to the foot of the mountains. He needed around thirty pounds of actual nitrogen to spread per acre, not too close to the vines. Grapes were deep rooted fruit. They went down five feet or more, some of the older vines. He needed to plant more new rows, and replace those vines not producing well.
Vadas worked on his calculations. The nitrogen he used was ammonium nitrate, which was 33% nitrogen. You multiplied the weight of a 50 pound bag which gave you 16 pounds of actual nitrogen. Three 50 pound bags gave you 50 pounds of nitrogen. He had acres of vines to consider. Ah, God!

He hated math. It always screwed with him. Only with the needs of the vines had he been able to do this. But he still hated math.

Of course, too much nitrogen would damage the grapes. Compared to other crops, grapes didn’t have a high nitrogen requirement. A high nitrogen dump late in the season would affect the vines ability to withstand winter. Up here at the foot of the Matra mountains, the winters were always severe.

Too much or too little, like wine and women, would unbalance life. Something was always screwing with him.

After a few hours of this, he had enough. He would have to dig deep for the fertilizer next year, between bud and bloom season, but for now, this year, he had it covered.

He moved to a club chair, first poking up the fire. Janos had a good supply of wood stored under a roof, but he needed more before winter. It was always winter when things broke down, stopped working or died. Vadas had only been attending the vines for the last five years and now? It was a make or break deal. If it was dry tomorrow he would take Elizabeth out to inspect the grapes. They would be small green bullets, but growing. He made a mental note to call around to his clients in Paris and Budapest. There were enough barrels and bottles in the caves to supply them now. He would also have to secure more buyers for the wine. Ah God, it never ends, he thought. It’s a race between weather and demands of the soil and fruit.

Vadas was happy. The news about Zoltan made him happy. He decided to listen to his favorite music: American rock and roll. He had a collection of old records he bought during visits to the States. It was rare he had a chance to settle and enjoy this music. He put on “Under the Boardwalk” by the Drifters. He lit a cigarette and stretched out, drawing the smoke in deeply.

Elizabeth stood at the entrance of the room.

She started to laugh. “I didn’t know you liked this kind of music.”

“Ah! My dance partner has arrived!” Vadas threw his cigarette into the fireplace and grabbed Elizabeth around the waist. He danced her around the room, dipping and swaying, twirling her around like a 50’s jitterbug. He was quite happy with himself.

After a few minutes, she was tired out, but Vadas continued to dance, putting on a show, one hand on his stomach, the other waving in the air, his feet gliding about. Elizabeth laughed at his antics, glad to see him in such a mood. Finally he flopped down in his chair, beaming at her.

“Wherever you went it certainly made you happy.”

Vadas turned off the phonograph. “I saw Zoltan.”

“And how is he?”

“Good. In fact, better than ever.”

“Oh, that’s so good to hear. He’s a sweet man.”

“Yes he is.” Vadas started to light another cigarette, and then thought the better of it. Elizabeth was around and he didn’t want her nagging. He would hold the ‘good news’ about Zoltan until they went to bed. Then he would tell her, when he could weave the tale.

“Come here, Elizabeth.” He padded the chair.

“There’s no room, Vadas”, said Elizabeth, laughing.

“There’s always room for you, Mouse.”

Elizabeth sat on his lap. Vadas pulled her into his arms. She tucked her head under his chin, as he looked outside at the trees. The afternoon had slipped away and dusk was falling. The rain was heavier. The night would be a good one for sleeping. Lying in bed, he would hear the pounding of the rain. It always comforted, lulled him to sleep.
Nothing was solved, and Miklos was still out there. But he had seen Zoltan. In less than a day he had gained a brother, some family. He felt happy. The woman in his lap was a big part of that. Whatever tomorrow would bring, he could face it. He knew Zoltan would have his back. Then again, Zoltan always did. It just was a bit different now.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2013

Lady Nyo

Lady Nyo

“A Kapitany”, Chapter 32, and a Haiku each day….

January 31, 2013

This is Natiional Haiku Month I am told: Write a haiku a day.

I will not shed tears
Let the tall murasaki
wet my silken sleeves.

Outside the window
there is a world of chaos
Inside, warm fire.

A swirl of blossoms
Caught in the water’s current
Begins the season.

The north wind blows hard
Chills both man and animal
Life is not certain.

Haiku (classical form) is done as 5-7-5. There are many who creatively write ‘outside the box’. I still count on my fingers, and squeeze the ‘haiku’ into the box.

Lady Nyo

A Kapitany, Chapter 32

Vadas knew where Zoltan lived, though he hadn’t been there in a long time. He passed through a small village behind Noszvaj, where the road cut through a dense forest. Zoltan had a small cottage, down from the village, off the road. Vadas could see smoke from a small chimney.

All of this region was poor, and had been since it was settled. The war didn’t help and they survived much as they had after the war, scratching out an existence from the earth. Many of the people hunted in the forest for deer and boar to feed their families. They planted cabbage and millet, the poorest of grains. There was the forest for fuel, the way people heated their houses. This region of the northeast Hungary was poorly served by natural gas and electricity. Unemployment was high.

Vadas stopped his Jeep in front of the small path that led to the cottage. A dog came off the porch, barking wildly. A woman, not young, came from inside and yelled at the dog. It went behind the house where it quieted down. She smiled at Vadas, showing missing teeth. She must be a relative of Zoltan’s, thought Vadas.

The woman stood aside and held the door for him. He entered a room where he saw Zoltan sitting, his feet propped on the woodstove. Zoltan was smoking. Vadas embraced him, kissing him on both cheeks.

“You look good, Zoltan. How do you feel?”

“Like I dodged a bullet”, said Zoltan with a wide smile, his eyes twinkling.

Vadas laughed. “Well, you didn’t dodge the bullet, but you live another day.”

Zoltan offered him a cigarette from his pack. Vadas hesitated. He had cut down smoking, and mostly didn’t when Elizabeth was around. Elizabeth wasn’t around.

Lighting up, he drew in the smoke. Ah, he missed this. It was good to be around others who did.

They sat in silence. The woman, a cousin of Zoltan’s, brought in a tray of glasses, wine and sausage. She poured a glass for each of them then went back into the kitchen.

“How is your woman?”

“She is recovering, Zoltan. She’s is a bit cracked in the head right now.”

Vadas twirled his fingers near his temple, like Soffia had that morning.

Zoltan looked at the woodstove and grunted. “To be expected. She went through hell with Miklos.”

Vadas took a long drag on his cigarette. He looked at the glowing end. It was good to smoke again.

“I still don’t know where that bastard is. He hasn’t surfaced. I got all sorts of men looking and nothing. It’s driving me crazy. It’s also driving the woman crazy. She’s jumpy and cries a lot. This morning she tried to beat me up. I’m sore now, and tomorrow? I’ll be bruised like a kicked dog.”

They both laughed, Zoltan staring at Vadas. “You got one bold woman, there, Vadas. Either she’s bold or you’re getting soft.”

“I’m getting soft in the head. Ah God. And I am marrying her. Yes, soft in the head. She’s softening me up for the kill.”

“You know she tried to save me, Vadas? She told me to stay where I was. She started to leap out of the back door. She was going to deal with them. Her dress and heels slowed her down.” Zoltan shook his head and laughed softly.

Vadas drew on his cigarette. “I didn’t know that. I’m not surprised. She’s smarter than she looks.”

“Well, women, Vadas, you know?” Zoltan shrugged his shoulders and picked up his wine.

“To life and death, Vadas. To the death of Miklos. In time.”

Vadas tipped his glass to Zoltan. He could drink to that.

“How are the grapes?” Zoltan had his own vines. Vadas could see them stretching down the hill behind Zoltan’s cottage.

“Good. We need more rain. Always more rain.”

“How’s your cabbage?”

“Small, Vadas, but the woman spread manure, and they are growing, but slow.”

Vadas finished his glass and put it on the tray.

“Look, Zullie. I came to talk to you about something important. Something I just found out.”

“I’m all ears. Look me in the eye and speak, Vadas.”

Vadas sighed and shook his head.

“When I was visiting the old aunties yesterday, they told me something. Seems my mother was yours. We are brothers, Zullie.”

Zoltan shifted his weight and smiled. “I knew, Vadas. I knew years ago. Not officially. I heard the whispering when I was a boy.”

Vadas leaned forward and snubbed out his cigarette on the tray. His voice was cracked with emotion.

“What in hell made you silent? No family to speak of, just these two old biddies, and here under my nose I had a brother? What the fuck, Zoltan? Why didn’t you say?”

“There didn’t seem to be reason, Vadas. Life was fine without knowing. Would it really make any difference?”

Vadas stood up, ran his hand through his hair and sat down.

“Difference? Hell, yes, it would have made a difference. I could have done more, I could have done something. Look, Zullie, you are my flesh and blood. Do you know what that means? I’ve not had that. I’ve been thinking I was alone in this world. You could have been part, an important part of my life.”

Zoltan laughed softly. “What would have changed? I’ve been a part of your life. When we have need, we know where to find each other. Look, Vadas, I’m not like you. I’m a peasant. I’m a simple man. I have no education and I am comfortable. I don’t have your responsibilities. What do I need? I have this cottage, these vines. I got plenty of wood for the stove. I even got a cellphone.” Zoltan laughed, his heavy eyebrows going up and down.

“No, Zullie. It’s not that simple. You are my flesh, my blood. I have that house and the lodge and money in the bank. Sure, without Miklos’ business, and the need of the vineyard, the money won’t last. But fuck, Zullie. I have something more than that with you. I got family right under my nose and I didn’t know.”

Zoltan smiled. “Vadas, has anything changed between us with this news? No. We are the same as before. You need me, you find me. I need you, I find you.”

“Look, Zullie. I don’t care what you say. I have to make this right. It’s something I do. I want you to have the lodge. I am going to deed it over to you, understand? You get the lodge and the land around it, ok?”

“Vadas, are you cracked in the head like Elizabeth? What the fuck would I do with that place? It’s too big. Besides, my vines are here. My cousin takes good care of me. I am set in my ways. What else do I need?”

Vadas sighed and passed his hand through his hair. “You may not need much now, but I am still going to deed the lodge over. No argument from you, Zullie. Whether you live there or not, it’s your inheritance.”

“You live there, Vadas, you live there with Elizabeth. That house is going to eat you up. Too expensive to fix up and what would you do with all those rooms? No, you stay in the lodge, and whatever the future brings, well, the future will be here soon enough.”

Vadas was out of words and argument with him for now. He changed the subject.

“How’s your wound? Are you in pain?”

“Nah, I’m fine, plus I got these pills. They take the edge off life, Vadas. You might need them after marriage.”

Vadas laughed. “I might need them now. That woman runs circles around me. You wouldn’t believe how strong she is. I don’t want to be on the getting side of her bad moods. I’m going to be black and blue tomorrow.”

They smoked a while in silence, Vadas filling their glasses.

“That woodstove? Heats pretty good? Maybe I put one in the lodge. That place is cold. Elizabeth is going to freeze her nipples off this winter. She isn’t used to the winters up here.”

“She will adjust, Vadas, but I think you need to keep her warm. That will sour a woman fast, being cold. We can take it better. And the whining when they are cold! Jesus Christ, they can whine.”

Vadas laughed. “Yeah, Elizabeth is going to have to make a lot of adjustments. This first year will tell. I expect her to buy and hide a ticket back to the states. This winter will say a lot about her devotion to me.”

They drank their wine and Vadas filled their glasses again.

“You know she wants to raise sheep? Not for meat, but for wool. What the hell?”

Zoltan laughed. “Be thankful she is doing just that. She could be sitting around spending your money on crap. A few sheep? Not bad for a new wife. Sounds good to me. You can always kill a lamb and blame it on a dog.”

“We will see, Zullie, we will see. Right now I worry about Miklos, where he will pop up. Elizabeth is so spooked she doesn’t want a wedding. She wants to get married in a civil service.”

“Not a bad plan, Vadas. Think of the money you will save.”

“Oh! I want you to be witness. You and Soffia.”

Zoltan laughed. “As long as I don’t have to be near that hellcat long. Even standing next to her gives me the creeps.”

Vadas laughed. “Lesbians. I don’t understand it. What can they do without a man?”

“I’m sure plenty. Perhaps they paint each others toenails?”

Vadas laughed. “I don’t want to think. But I have to about Miklos. I have to figure out where the fuck that bastard is hiding. I thought by now I would have a clue. I don’t and I have a number of men on the payroll. Nothing yet.”

“Ah, Vadas, you know Miklos. He’s a tricky bastard. But he will surface for air. Just be patient.”

“Yeah, and quiet Elizabeth. She’s afraid Miklos will come through the window like a wolf.”

“He might. I wouldn’t leave her alone again.”

“I got men watching but Miklos has men, too. It will be interesting to see what happens.”

“Just a thought, Vadas. Miklos might try to strike before the wedding. Or at it. You find him first before he finds you.”

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2007-2013

“A Kapitany”, Chapter 31, again with a WARNING

January 25, 2013

from website: halfhearted dude...and thank you.

bit of the Dom getting beat up…nothing too graphic.

Lady Nyo

A Kapitany, Chapter 31

“Come into my arms, little mouse.”

Vadas left his aunts and Budapest at dawn. He wanted to surprise Elizabeth early in the morning before she began her day. He found her still asleep. Getting into bed, she turned to him, tousled hair covering her face. When he brushed it back with his hand, he saw she had been crying. Her face was streaked with tears.

“What is wrong, Elizabeth?”

“Oh, nothing, just a dream.” She sat up and blew her nose.

“A dream? That must have been some dream to make you cry in your sleep.”

“I don’t remember much. Zoltan was in it.”

Vadas spoke quietly. “Don’t worry, Zoltan is fine. We will see him soon. Zoltan is recovering well.”

Elizabeth snuggled up in his arms and in a matter of minutes had fallen back asleep. Vadas thought this a good time to seek out Soffia. He found her downstairs with her coffee before a low fire. Janos always had a fire in this room in the morning. Even in the summer the lodge was cold before ten o’clock.

“Morning, Vadas”. Soffia yawned and sipped her coffee.

Vadas drew a cup and sat down across from her. “How did it go while I was gone?”

Soffia smiled. “It went ok. We found a couple of contractors who will come out and give estimates on the roof. Other than that, we didn’t do much. We looked at a few churches in Eger, but Elizabeth seemed to balk at them. I think she is remembering things, Vadas. I think memories are messing with her head.” Soffia twirled her finger next to her temple.

Vadas didn’t say anything, but stared into the fire. It was good there was a fire going. It was drizzling outside, a grey and mournful start to the day.

“You know, Vadas, it was bound to happen. She was having a hard time sleeping. I found her crying a lot. She tries to hide it. It’s either Miklos or she is afraid with you gone. Probably both.”

“Well, I’ll deal with it. I didn’t want to leave her but I knew you would take care of things. Thank you, darling.”

“Vadas? I think until Miklos is out of the picture, Elizabeth won’t feel safe. And I think she won’t feel safe even if you marry her.”

“Did she say that, Soffia?”

“Not exactly. She was listless looking at the churches. She said she doesn’t want a big wedding full of strangers. I think she wants to get it done in a small, quiet way.”

“Perhaps that is best. Perhaps we marry with a few witnesses. Later we have a large reception. What do you think?”

“I think you are wise, Vadas. But talk it out with her. You will be able to open her up. She is closed right now like a clam.”

Vadas stared into the flames again. He was troubled Elizabeth was having doubts. She seemed fine when he left.

“Soffia, when I was visiting the aunties, I found out something. You will never believe this.”

“What, Vadas. I am all ears.”

Vadas said simply: “It appears Zoltan is my half brother.”

“What? Can you be serious? Zoltan?”

“I’m telling you this, Soffia, but keep it to yourself. Zoltan doesn’t know.”

“My God, Vadas. Is this true?”

“Well, the old aunties don’t have any reason to lie. He’s a few years older. Zoltan’s father was my mother’s lover. Zoltan was given to his family to raise. My mother didn’t have milk enough to nurse. My father came back from Recsk a broken man. The aunties said he died not knowing anything. That was a mercy.”

Soffia’s face registered her shock. “What life brings, no?”

“I am going to tell him, and also ask him to stand as witness at the wedding. And you, Soffia. You are my oldest friends. Elizabeth will be glad of having someone she knows with her in this stuff. Someone who is a woman.”

“I figured that, Vadas. I am honored.” Soffia was silent for a few moments as she sipped her coffee. “So this news about Zoltan. Does it change anything for you?”

“Hell, yes. It means he is to be considered in the inheritance. I will deed over this lodge to him. He doesn’t have much family and of course Janos and Maria will stay on.”

“That’s generous of you, Vadas.” Soffia tipped her cup to him.

“Zoltan almost lost his life. I would have had his blood on my hands. It’s the least I can do.” Vadas shook his head. The shock of seeing Zoltan in the car would not soon fade.

“Look, Soffia. Do you think Elizabeth is trying to back out of marriage? You are a woman and women know these things before men.”

“Vadas, I can’t know anything for sure. I believe she loves you. It’s what has happened with Miklos that has unscrewed her. She is remembering things now the shock is wearing off.” Soffia sighed. “It’s to be expected.”

“What do you think I should do?”

Soffia was surprised Vadas was asking her. He was always so much in control of everything. Now? The cracks were showing in his façade.

She smiled. “Do what you do best, Vadas. Dominant her. Show her you will protect her at all costs. Show how strong you are as a man. Perhaps take her away for a while.”

“I was going to take her to Paris after the wedding. She’s never seen it. We will get to know each other better.”

“Well, you do what you think best. But I warn you. She is really suffering right now. She cries and jumps at the littlest things. All she wanted to do is scurry back to the car and come back here. She was jittery on the streets of Eger. She didn’t enjoy the churches at all.”

Soffia left soon after and Elizabeth came downstairs.

“Has Soffia gone already? I wanted to say goodbye.”

“You’ll see her soon. It’s hard to get rid of Soffia. She always comes back.”

Elizabeth got herself a cup of coffee and started to sip it standing under the gaze of the boar’s head.

“No, Elizabeth. Not today. You are going to have a proper breakfast.”

“I don’t have an appetite, Vadas. I just want coffee.”

“Sit down, Elizabeth. You are going to eat something. You look like a scarecrow. You are scaring me, plus the crows.”

Vadas headed down the short hall towards the kitchen. He would ask Maria to bring a tray of eggs, sausage, anything to tempt Elizabeth. He came back and scowled at her. She avoided his eyes, and sipped her coffee. Maria came in with a tray and placed it before Elizabeth and left, Vadas calling after her.

“Thank you, Maria. Now eat something, Elizabeth. Don’t make me feed you.”

“Leave me alone, Vadas. You don’t always get your way. I’m not hungry.”

“Then you leave me no choice.” Vadas stood up and was coming around the end of the table when Elizabeth threw her cup at the boar’s head.

She yelled, “I told you. You don’t always get what you want!” Vadas paused, shocked by her violence, undecided what to do.

“You want to hit me, Elizabeth? Go ahead. Hit me all you want.” He grabbed her shoulders, and pulled her out of the chair. Elizabeth went pale. Then she exploded in a violent rage.

“You bastard! You think you can bend me to everything you want! I hate you! I hate you!”

She pounded on his chest as hard as she could. Vadas stood there. He didn’t smile or taunt her. He let her tire herself out. He didn’t put his arms around her, or try to stop her.

Elizabeth slipped to the floor, sobbing. She put her head down on his shoes and continued to sob. Vadas crouched down beside her.

“Are you finished? Is it out of your system?”

Elizabeth looked up at him, hair obscuring her face. Snot ran down her face and she had bit her lip. Hiccuping, she was trying to get her breath. She looked like a mad woman. Oh, what was he marrying!

“Vadas, I am so scared. Miklos will come back and kill us both” she sobbed, barely able to talk. She was trembling.

“No, Elizabeth. He knows the game. He is as scared of me and my men as you are of him. You understand? You have me, others to protect you. Miklos wouldn’t dare make a move. He knows I will kill him first. Remember, Miklos is only the wolf and I am the hunter.”

“Don’t leave me, Vadas. Don’t leave me. I will die if you do.”

Vadas stood her up and wiped her face with his handkerchief. She was still crying. He picked her up in his arms and carried her upstairs to the bedroom. Placing her on the bed, he lay down beside her. She was calming down and wouldn’t look at him, turning her distorted face away. She was trying not to sob, but every so often, a sob would break out and her chest would heave.

“Hush, Elizabeth, no one will hurt you again. No one will come through the doors or the windows. You are safe here, you are safe with me. Now you are in pain, but it will end. Your Vadas will protect you. Hush, darling girl, stop your sobbing.”

Elizabeth turned and threw her arms around him. “I hurt my wrist beating you. I think I broke it again.”

Vadas examined her wrist. It was a bit swollen. He didn’t think it was broken. “No, but you pack a punch for a little woman. I will be black and blue tomorrow.”

“Oh, let me see. Did I hurt you?”

Elizabeth unbuttoned his shirt and looked at his chest. There were a few red markings and she started to kiss each one.

“Oh Vadas, I am so sorry. I was beside myself. I am so sorry.”

“Kiss each wound and see where it leads.” Elizabeth looked up at his face and saw he was laughing.

“Feel better, little mouse?” Vadas asked after some minutes. “Now come down and eat the lovely food Maria has made. We have fed one appetite, now let’s feed another. I am hungry, Elizabeth and can’t live on love. I need food and so do you.”

Elizabeth was as docile as a lamb sitting at the table. Actually, she was exhausted. She ate a bit of egg and toast. Vadas ate everything in sight and called out for Maria to bring more food. She came in with a tray. She tried to maintain a poker face, but Elizabeth saw a small smile. Vadas grinned at her, his mouth full. Maria put her hand on his shoulder as she passed him. He grabbed and kissed it. Maria smiled as she left.

“Good fights like that lead to good love making, Elizabeth. You show promise as a wife.”

“Vadas, we need to talk about this wedding. It’s not real to me. We need to talk.”

“Ok, Elizabeth. Talk. Tell me what you want. You have my full attention.” Vadas pushed the last of his egg around with toast. He sat back chewing on a long sausage.

Elizabeth drew in a breath. “I don’t want a large wedding. I don’t want to get married in a church. Please, Vadas. I haven’t been to mass in thirty years. Those churches in Eger scare me. All those plaster saints! I don’t belong there. Can’t we just marry before a judge or whatever people do in Hungary?”

“What? You don’t want a church wedding? Well, let me think. We can have a civil service, and then a large reception. Elizabeth, if I didn’t throw a large party for people they would talk behind our backs. It is expected of me. I owe too many favors to too many people not to give them a good time. I warn you, it could last three days.” He pointed his sausage at her.

“Yes, Soffia warned me,” said Elizabeth in a small voice.

“So, you don’t want a church wedding. Do you want a bride’s gown? You have to have witnesses, and I thought Zoltan and Soffia would be good for that.”

“I can agree with that, Vadas. And no, I don’t need a bridal gown. A new dress would be fine.”

“Ok.” Vadas washed down his breakfast with the last of the coffee. “No church wedding. My aunties will be crushed.”

“They will survive, Vadas.”

He retrieved his jacket from a hook in the hall. He pulled Elizabeth from her chair and led her to the sitting room before the fire.

“Sit, Elizabeth.” He pulled a small black box from his pocket. He placed it in her hand.

Elizabeth opened it and saw the heart-shaped diamond ring.

“Oh!” Tears formed in her eyes. She was overwhelmed. She looked up at him.

“Oh, Vadas! It’s so beautiful.” She tried to put it on her left hand ring finger, but her finger was too swollen.

“Put it on your right hand, Elizabeth. You are in Hungary now. That is where a wedding ring goes.”

“Did you buy this in Budapest? It is so lovely.”

“No. Actually it comes from my Aunt Eva. She insisted I give you this. It was from her husband, long dead now. It’s pretty, no?”

“Vadas, it is the most beautiful ring I have ever seen. Please thank her for me.”

“You can thank her yourself when you meet her. Aunt Eva is sweet, and Aunt Magrit is… fierce. They are about as different as two sisters can be.”

Vadas chuckled. He was pleased at Elizabeth’s response to the ring. It fit well on her hand. Elizabeth kept looking at it, holding it up in the dim light of the room.

“Elizabeth, I have some work to do today. You can read or talk to Maria, but I have to do this alone. I’ll be back in a few hours. You be a good girl, and perhaps if it stops raining we will go visit the grapes. I need to see how they are growing.”

Elizabeth didn’t like the idea of Vadas leaving, but what could she do? She would read or go bother Maria. It was time she talked to her, anyway. Perhaps she spoke a bit of English. At least it would be some companionship. Perhaps she could learn to cook more Hungarian dishes. As long as she stayed within these walls she would be safe. That was what she wanted. To be safe from the wolf outside.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2007-2013

“A Kapitany”, Chapter 30

January 23, 2013

Budapest Balcony with flowers

I have been reading “Savage Continent”, by Keith Lowe. I can’t put this book down and have been getting up in the middle of the night just to read more. It’s about Europe after WWII and it is nothing we in the US have been taught. At least most of us. The turmoil after WWII, when nation’s borders were expanded or condensed, when people who were minorities were expelled, slaughtered by ‘ethnic cleansing’ by new and vengeful governments and citizens, where starvation and disease were even more prominent than during the war years of rations and ‘without’….this book opened my eyes and my heart.

It is not an easy book to read because the horror of what happened is heart wrenching. Since the men were off fighting a war, the majority of victims were women, children and the elderly. I encourage everyone who reads this blog to get this book. It also influenced my writing of “A Kapitany”, though only in the past few weeks. This history can’t be ignored, especially when you are writing about conditions (as in Hungary) today. The impact of war and it’s devastation in the 10 years after will impact generations to come.

Chapter 30 is a gentle chapter. No warnings. Just two elderly aunties that have seen much and survived more.

Lady Nyo

A Kapitany, Chapter 30

Vadas walked down the street in Rozsadomb, a well heeled part of Budapest. He looked for the elaborate iron grill of their balcony, and saw the geraniums in pots. Aunt Eva was the gardener. Vadas remembered his mother and Eva spading up the flower garden when he was a child. They planted cabbages and turnips. He remembered some man helping to uproot the old rose bushes. Cabbages would feed them, Eva said. Roses only smelled good.

They had lived a long time in Rose Hill. Their home was part of an old mansion, subdivided into apartments. Before there were only old people around. So many of the rich, those who had built these villas, had fled Budapest for the west. They had settled in Paris, Toronto, in London. Now Rose Hill was again an expensive residential neighborhood in Buda. Some of the former residents had moved back in the twenty years since the Iron Curtain had fallen. Many of the new owners of these places were foreigners. Vadas wondered what his aunts thought about the changes around them, these new people. The last time he had talked to them, they had bemoaned the dying off of neighbors of many years. They had grown old, and despite war and political turmoil, claimed the world was moving too fast.

Vadas stood in the street and looked at the stonework of the building. Elaborate carvings and even more elaborate iron work on the balconies. This type of construction would never be reproduced now. Too expensive. The skilled workers, stone masons and artists who produced this decoration would have died off. Tastes had changed and now efforts were put into economical and fast construction. The housekeeper appeared on the balcony. Vadas waved to her.

He rang the buzzer at the door and was let into the vestibule. He climbed the stairs to the second story, ignoring the small elevator and was met at the door by the same woman. She led him down the small hallway to his aunts.

They were sitting with big smiles creasing their faces. Vadas embraced them, kissing both on their cheeks.

“You have come! You rascal, you don’t visit us much. How many times a year, Vadas? Perhaps you are waiting for our funeral to pay your respects?” Aunt Magrit was the fierce one, and pulled little Eva around in her wake.

Vadas grinned. “You look very well, dear Margit. As well as ever.”

He was fondest of Eva, who was younger by two years. She looked so old, but then, both of them were in their nineties. They had seen so much; war, the starvation after war, displacement, casual violence outside their windows. They had survived events many others hadn’t. Aunt Eva’s eyes had almost disappeared into the wrinkles of her face.

Still they shone with tenderness.

The housekeeper came in with a tray of coffee and Vadas took a cup, placing the saucer on his knee like he did as a young boy.

“Your last letter said you had a surprise for us? Come Vadas, you know we have little time left to play riddles with you.”

Aunt Margit always had a sharp tongue. She meant well, still was a formidable woman. Aunt Eva just smiled at Vadas. She was used to her sister and all these years nothing had changed.

“I am going to marry.” He took a sip of his too-sweetened coffee.

Both women looked at him and Aunt Margit exploded in cackles.

“You? The man who has run all these years from marriage? Hah! This news is unexpected. Tell us who this poor woman is. We will warn her.”

Aunt Eva had tears in her eyes.

“Ah, Margit, leave the poor boy alone. He means well, you know his heart.”
“Well, then. Tell us about your intended and wedding plans.”

“Well, it won’t be until after the harvest. I have hopes for this year’s grapes. The wedding will be in Eger.”
“We hear you have done a good job with the vines, Vadas. Your hard work is paying off. Your dear father would be proud of you and your labors.”

Aunt Eva nodded her head. She was the silent one when Margit was around.

Vadas didn’t think his father would be proud at all if he knew how he had made the bulk of his money. The past five years had made a difference, though. The grapes were producing well, and he had expanded his clients. At least that part was good.

“Elizabeth is a few years younger, past child bearing age, but still in good shape.”

He took another sip of his coffee. “She is a small woman, sometimes quiet. She is an artist.”

“Ah, good! She will paint a picture for us! Tell her I want one of the old house and be quick about it. I won’t live forever.”

Eva laughed at her sister. “Go on, Vadas, dear. Tell us more about this Elizabeth. It is good you are marrying a countrywoman. Poor Marta. After all these years, you are going to have a wife.”

They would not be pleased when they found out more about Elizabeth, thought Vadas.

“Actually, darlings, Elizabeth is an American. But she’s half Hungarian”, Vadas rushed to add.

“What? You are marrying someone foreign? Why? Why can’t you find a good Hungarian girl to marry, Vadas?”

Aunt Margit’s cup rattled in her saucer. Aunt Eva looked confused.

“Well, simply….I have fallen in love.” Vadas put his cup and saucer on the table besides him.

“Look, she is a good girl, a good woman. She is sensible and not someone who is just out to spend money. She wants to raise sheep after we marry. I don’t understand this, but she wants to sell wool to some market. She is industrious and she will be good with clients. She is smart. And pretty.”

“Wool?” Aunt Margit looked at Eva, her jaw dropping. “Does she understand the duties of a wife? Does she cook?”

Vadas laughed. “Oh, believe me. She understands the duties of a wife. I have taken her out for a test drive a number of times.”

Aunt Eva laughed and Aunt Margit blinked several times, the joke going over her head.

“As to cooking, I don’t know. Maria Kovacs has taken care of that so far. Two women in the same kitchen look like trouble to me so I haven’t encouraged this.”

“Well, that at least shows you have some sense for a man. So tell us, Vadas, in what church will the wedding be?”

Vadas knew he was in trouble now. He hadn’t given it any thought. He left these details to Soffia and Elizabeth.

“Oh, a good Catholic church. When I get back to Eger I will discuss this with Elizabeth.”

“A good Catholic church? Hah! You haven’t been to mass in years. Is this Elizabeth even Catholic?”

Vadas thought carefully how to answer. “We don’t discuss religion too much, Auntie. There has been so much on her plate. We haven’t had much time to talk about these things.”

“Have you met her family?”

“No, Eva. She only has one elderly Aunt. We will bring her over for the wedding.”

“Oh! Are her parents dead? Poor woman, to be alone in a country, planning a wedding and no one to help her.”

“Remember Soffia Horvath? She is helping her. She’s with her right now. They have been visiting churches and looking for a wedding gown.”

“Soffia! Oh, Vadas, that Soffia is not a good woman to throw at your bride. I remember her. She was quite something. Attractive, yes, but not wife material at all.”

Vadas laughed. If they only knew the truth about Soffia.

“I’m not marrying Soffia, Aunt Margit. She’s just company for Elizabeth while I am gone on business. She is serving a purpose and likes Elizabeth. Soffia is a sweet girl, don’t worry.”

They were silent for a few moments as the aunties digested this news about the intended marriage.

“I am very glad you are settling down, darling. I remember the sadness when Marta died. Oh, that poor lamb!” This from Aunt Eva.

“Thank you. Elizabeth is very different from Marta, but then again, this is to be expected. And I am twenty years older. I am different, too. Elizabeth is very curious about the vineyard and I have shown her the vines. She will adjust to being married to a humble wine maker.”

“Will this American woman want to live in Hungary? Aren’t we very different than the States?”

“She will adjust, Aunt Margit. She is in love with her Vadas and she will adjust.”

They talked about other matters, and Vadas relaxed when the conversation shifted from Elizabeth. How could they grasp anything about her? She was different, a foreigner, a woman not of their culture. But it didn’t really matter. The adjustment would be between them. And there would be plenty of it. First they had to get past Miklos. But that was still in the future. Nothing to bother the old aunties with.

“Well, Vadas. You know this news changes a lot of things. We were holding the estate for you, and you would get it when we died. But with your marriage, this changes. Would you want to live in that old house?”

“Elizabeth has seen it. I made it a point to show it to her. She has given some excellent advice on the murals and the restoration. She and Soffia are travelling around Eger right now talking to people to begin at least repair the roof.”

“Does she speak Hungarian?” This from Aunt Margit.

“No, just a little bit. That is why Soffia is so helpful right now.”

Both aunts looked at each other. “Well, she will have to learn, and fast.”

“What did she think about the house?”

“Ah, she loved it, Eva. Tears were in her eyes. She said she couldn’t marry me because I would think she was
marrying for the house.” Vadas laughed. “I convinced her otherwise.”

“Yes, said Margit, I bet you did. You always had a persuasive way with women. You know we heard stories of your exploits, Vadas. We might be old, but we still can hear and enjoy gossip.”

Vadas smiled. “Well, you don’t have to worry about rumors anymore. You will like Elizabeth. She is the soul of kindness and good sense. You will love her in time.”

They had asked him to stay for dinner and Vadas didn’t see how he could politely refuse. He wanted to drive back to Noszvaj that night but they had more to say. Aunt Margit went to instruct the housekeeper who also cooked for them, and left him alone with Eva.

“Have you given her a ring, yet?”

“No, Aunt Eva. I did pick up a box of jewelry from the lawyers in Paris, but there was nothing I saw on first viewing. I will look for something, probably in Eger.”

“Wait, Vadas. I have something to give you. I don’t know if you will like, but perhaps it will work.”

Aunt Eva left him in their sitting room, and went to her bedroom. She returned with a small box and presented it to him. In it was a diamond ring. Heart shaped, with a pave of tiny diamonds on either side, set in platinum. Vadas sucked in his breath when he saw it.

“I can’t accept this, Eva”. He looked with fondness at his aunt.

“And who am I to give it to, then? I didn’t think to give it to you for Marta, but then, it was all over so soon.

Ah, Vadas, how much our hearts were broken. We suffered along with you, darling boy.”

“It is beautiful, Eva. It is perfect for Elizabeth. She will love it. Thank you.”

Vadas embraced this tiny, frail auntie and held her long. He didn’t want her to see the emotion crossing his face. He was deeply moved.

After dinner and during the coffee that followed all meals in Budapest, the aunts told him they had another thing to talk about. They felt he needed to know this, and were wrong to hold it so long.

“Do you remember the man that came and helped your mother? He dug up the rose garden and helped her plant cabbages? It was Zoltan’s father. Your mother had a child by him. Your father was in prison, and your mother was very alone. It is hard for a women to face the world without a man, and she faced more than the world. She faced the Germans, and then the Russians. That house almost killed her. Everything weighed on her until it broke her health. That is why she died, Vadas, before her time. Don’t judge, Vadas, war does terrible things to people and especially women. You wouldn’t have known this. You were in France, with us. You were so young, just a baby.”

Aunt Eva did the talking. Aunt Margit was silent with the memories.

“The years after the war were almost as terrible as during the war. The starvation, the lawlessness in the cities, the rampages, and especially the famines, all these things happen, Vadas. What are we to do? We just go on. This child, Zoltan, was given to his father’s family to raise. Your mother didn’t have milk enough to nurse him. Cabbages and turnips were not good food for this. He would have died, one amongst so many babies who did. People suspected his parentage, but who could care? They all had their own worries. One child born above the blanket was not an event to produce much concern during those years. People had too much to do. This was nothing.”

This was nothing? Vadas couldn’t think straight. So, Zoltan was his half brother. What was he to think? Why did they not tell him before? Ah, God! He had almost killed Zoltan, had seen him awash in his own blood, and only a mercy had saved him. He, Vadas, had sent him into danger. He had almost died. He would have killed his own brother had he died. This blood would have been on his hands.

The two sisters couldn’t know what Vadas was thinking, but the shock of it was on his face. He felt physically sick and stood up. He passed his hand over his face, and walked to the window. The two women looked at each other in fear. They didn’t expect this old news, of sixty years duration, to do this to him.

At the window, Vadas took a deep breath. Zoltan was alive and recovering. He would do everything in his power to rectify what he had done.

He faced his aunts. The shock of this was still on his face, and his voice wavered.

“Zoltan is my brother? This is true?”

“Yes, Vadas, he is your half-brother. We didn’t know until recently that Zoltan was still alive or living in Hungary. We had lost sight of him many years ago. We just forgot all this. But we were visited by some investigator and he mentioned Zoltan had been injured. They also mentioned your name. We didn’t give any information, played two old rattled women, which we are, but it was time for you to know about Zoltan.”

Vadas was curious about this investigator. He didn’t want to alarm his aunts. He would find his own answers later.

“Since Zoltan is my half brother, then the estate should be divided between us.”

“There is the house and the hunting lodge. Since Zoltan is not married, we thought perhaps he could be settled in the lodge? But it is up to you, Vadas. You are the main inheritor.”

Vadas thought hard. What should he say to them?

“I was hoping I could restore at least part of the house for us to live in. I don’t know, it would be too expensive to restore the whole house. There isn’t any furniture in it. It isn’t something you can ask a bride to do. I was thinking we would live in the lodge until we could fix up a couple of rooms, and of course patch the roof first. Everything else can be later.”

Vadas looked at the floor. “I thought of asking Zoltan to come live in the lodge. I knew he was injured, and I visited him in hospital. He has no wife or children I know of. I think that is right, to deed over the lodge to him. Of course Janos and Maria would continue to live there. They have been there so long. They also can help Zoltan. All this changes everything, no?”

“Yes, Vadas, it does. And Zoltan living in the lodge is a good idea. He doesn’t know you are his half brother. We thought it would be up to you to tell him.”

Ah God, thought Vadas. I wonder what he will think. And why so long in the coming?

The aunties later said there was a warehouse in Eger full of furniture they had saved from the Russians, first from the Germans, and then later from the Communists. They didn’t know the shape of the stuff, perhaps the mice had destroyed the upholstery, rats had eaten the legs of tables, but it was from the house. Perhaps Elizabeth could see what was there and choose what she wanted?

Vadas smiled. He already knew of a nice bed needing a mattress. Aunt Magrit gave him her best severe look and Eva chuckled. Their darling boy really hadn’t changed over the years. Thank God something of life was still the same, even if in the telling it would make a priest blush in the confession box.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2007-2013

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