“Julio’s really leaving?” Marga asked, lying in bed with Pablo, resting her head on his chest.
“Yeah, I guess so,” Pablo said. “You know him. He just put his uniform back on and conned his way into some job with the new government.”
“I can’t believe he’s working with them.”
Pablo frowned, playing with Marga’s hair. He loved his brother, he did. He knew his brother joked around too much. He also knew his brother wasn’t great at seeing limits. Lying his way into the phone company was one thing, lying his way into being a part of Franco’s government… Pablo could still see him do that salute and sing that song, slipping so easily into allegiance with the nationalists, Pablo wondered how much of it was feigned. He wondered if Julio himself cared to know.
He always saw his brother for who he was – someone who could charm his way into anything. He knew – Pablo definitely knew – that that penchant often got Julio into trouble. But this was a different kind of trouble. This was serious, this could hurt people. This would hurt people.
“I was thinking,” Pablo said. “I could get another accounting job. Now that the war is over, people are going to need to get their finances back in order, businesses are going to have to open again.”
“Yeah,” Marga agreed. “And in a few years, once the baby’s older, I thought I’d go back to accounting, too.”
“Really?” Pablo asked. He was smiling now. “That’s great. Maybe we could start the business up again. Who knows, maybe in thirty years we’ve stepped back and our kid is running it with theirs.”
Marga grinned, too. “Yeah, maybe.”
“You know,” Pablo said. “They need accountants everywhere.”
“Yeah,” Marga agreed. “But, I don’t know, Pablo. I think Madrid’s going to recover faster than any other place in Spain.”
“I think so, too,” Pablo said, nodding slowly. His slowed his fingers playing with Marga’s hair. “I don’t mean Spain, though.”
Marga looked up at him. “Where do you mean?”
“I don’t know,” Pablo said. “It’s going to take a long time for things to get better here. Maybe, now that the war’s over, we should go. We should leave, go to Mexico or Argentina or America. I don’t know.”
“You want to move to the other side of the world?”
“It would be a good time,” Pablo said. “We don’t have jobs yet, instead of starting over here, we can start over somewhere else-.”
“No,” Marga said firmly.
“Marga, I know it’s a lot-.”
“No,” Marga repeated. “The answer is no.”
“Okay.” He let it go, content to follow her lead on this.
“It’s just…Pablo,” she said, calling his name so he knew she was serious. She looked straight at him, thinking of all those times she wanted to look him in the eyes like this, to lie with him like this, to be with him like this. All those mornings she got ready alone, all those nights she went to sleep in a bed that was too big for just her. All that led to this. “This is what we fought for. All that hardship, all that pain, all that fear, it was for this. We fought for this and I am not giving it up.”
“Marga, we lost the war,” Pablo said gently. “A lot of people are leaving if they can. A lot of people have already left.”
“We fought for this,” Marga repeated. “We have had guns pointed at us, we have seen this city destroyed, we have lost people. This is what all that was for. We are not leaving.”
Pablo smiled a bittersweet grin. Marga didn’t talk a ton about what it was like when he was gone, but he knew it was bad. He couldn’t imagine what it was like for her to plan his funeral and then have it interrupted by his murderers, let alone the rest of it. He'd heard about what she did at the hotel, how she basically dared the nationalists to shoot her. It broke his heart to imagine her reaching that point, but he was also so intensely proud of her bravery to stand up to them.
And frankly, he was on the fence. He wasn’t undecided, but he knew he’d be fine with staying or leaving. He wanted to Marga know that he was fine with either, though. He wouldn’t blame her at all for wanting to leave.
And at the same time, he understood exactly what she meant. She had changed so much since he’d been gone – she was more bold, she was more confident, she was more unafraid.
“Okay,” he said. “Yeah, we’re not leaving. If this war won’t get us to leave, nothing will. Madrid is our home.”
“Madrid is our home,” Marga agreed, lying back on his chest again.
Pablo spent much of the next days trying to contact everyone he knew in business – his old Telephone Company coworkers, his fellow soldiers, distant relatives in the city, anyone. He knew there were thousands of soldiers looking for jobs, not to mentions thousands of civillians.
Marga spent a lot of the time resting. She had told Pablo what the doctor said, and she also confirmed that she felt okay. Just having him home and having the war be over was a huge weight off her shoulders.
She knew the coming years wouldn’t be easy – there was no end in sight for the food shortages, she hated the new government, so many of her friends and other parts of her pre-war life were strewn all over the world.
But if she had learned one thing from the war, it was that she was unbreakable. And she may have been separated from so many of the people that she loved, but she knew what they’d gone through. She knew they were unbreakable too.
Then one afternoon, there was a knock on her door.
Pablo called to her that he got it, and she heard him go down the hall and get the door.
If she were totally honest, she still replayed that moment in her head where she opened the door and saw Isidro and knew the news he had to give her was bad. She knew Pablo wasn’t really dead, she knew he was fine, but, still.
The war was traumatic in big ways – everyone she knew still twitched a bit when they heard a loud sound, if not outright ran for cover. But it was also the small things. It was the little things like how she now knew just how awful whatever is on the other side of a door could be.
“Marga,” Pablo said, walking back down toward the hall. “Oscar is here.”
“Oscar?” Marga asked, sitting up. She saw Oscar in front of her and was glad to see him dressing like his usual self, even if behind the suit he looked very, very sad. “What’s wrong?”
“I’m sorry to just come by like this,” Oscar said. “I don’t know where else to go.”
He used to stand so tall and upright and proud. In fact, the slight slouch in his shoulders wouldn't even be noticeable to any passerby - they would just see a confident man walking down the street. But Marga knew him better. She could see the slight slouch, like he was on the verge of crumbling altogether.
“James asked me to go with him to Berlin,” Carlota said. “He wants us to cover the Nazis, he thinks there will be another war.”
“He asked you?” Oscar asked. Carlota nodded. “Is this you asking me to go with you? Or are you just telling me you’re going to Berlin?”
“I wouldn’t make that sort of decision without telling you, Oscar.”
“Okay, so you haven’t given James an answer?”
Carlota paused. Oscar saw right through it.
“You already told him yes.”
“I told him that I want to,” Carlota said. “Because I do. We are a great reporting team-.”
“You and James?”
“And you and me," Carlota offered after a moment. She knew something with them was broken, she knew she wanted to fix it but she didn't know how. There were things she felt that she couldn't say, because she knew they would only make the break worse, maybe even irreparable. So she said what she could.
“When was the last time we wrote a real report?” Oscar asked.
“Things got complicated here,” Carlota said, reaching for Oscar and acting like she didn’t see him pull back just the slightest bit.
They hadn’t resolved their last fight about James and here there were, starting a new one.
“I’m sorry that saving Angeles’ daughter was too complicated for you.”
“That is not what I mean, don’t be like that.”
“Be like what?” Oscar asked. “Do you like James?”
“I want to work with him.”
“Do you like James, Carlota?!”
“I don’t know!” Carlota admitted finally. “Maybe. I haven’t felt this way about anyone but you in a really long time. I don’t know what to do with it.”
“Do you still feel that way about me?”
“Oscar, I love you.”
“That’s not an answer.”
“Yes, it is!” Carlota asked. “Oscar, please. I love you. We have been together for more than ten years-.”
“Yes, we have,” Oscar said. “And we’ve done whatever you wanted to do.”
“Carlota, you know what the news coming out of Berlin is. I can not go there! You know what they are doing to people like me, and it’s only going to get worse! And they’ll come for people like you, too.”
“People need to know what’s going on there.”
“Carlota, I am asking you to stay,” Oscar said.
“Because you don’t want me to work with James.”
“Because it’s dangerous!” Oscar said. “I can’t go with you, and you still want to go?”
“Oscar, we can help people there.”
That “we” didn’t mean Oscar and Carlota. It meant James and Carlota.
“You can help people here,” Oscar said. “All the war reporters here, they’re going to move on to Germany. They’re going to forget about the people here and the people here need their stories told. Franco won and the world needs to know what awful things he’s going to do next!”
Carlota looked at him. She truly didn’t know what to do. She wanted to make this better, she hated seeing Oscar upset.
"We have spent ten years trying to make Spain a better place, even when we were in France coordinating with the republicans underground here, and it's the worst it's ever been," Oscar continued. "And you want to leave? You're just going to abandon everything?"
Carlota inhaled sharply at that. She wanted to contest that, that she wasn't abandoning everything. She hated this rift, she hated what was happening between her and Oscar and what was going on in Spain.
But she wanted to go to Berlin more. She wanted to continue this reporting work with James more.
And she didn’t know what that meant. It had been over a decade since she wanted something that didn’t involve Oscar and it terrified her.
“I’m sorry,” was all Carlota had to offer. It was heartfelt and sincere. But it wasn't enough.
After a few days of barely talking, of living in the apartment together that was once warm and welcoming but was now suffocating them with all the things they didn't say just hanging in the air, Oscar came home one day and found Carlota's things gone.
“Come in,” Marga said. “Stay, please. You know you’re always welcome here.”
Oscar smiled wide and pulled his friend in for a hug.
The only one who saw business boom in the immediate aftermath of the war was Victoria. All sorts of new routes for imports had opened since the war ended and tons of war supplies had gone unused. Nearly every product immagineable was in demand and Victoria was the person to go to in Madrid for anything.
She made sure Oscar had all the papers he needed to live as safely as he could. The name Oscar Millan was dangerous to use, but Victoria got him a new name – Oscar Santos, a cousin of Pablo’s who had settled in Madrid after the war. He lived with them, helping to run the house while Marga rested and Pablo worked. He gathered stories from people in the building about their war experiences and the aftermath and worked to get them published.
The war took a lot from everyone. It took so much. But somehow, in the aftermath, new families could form.
This new family worked well for everyone – Pablo got a job at an accounting firm near the apartment. It was small and mostly just used by the local family-owned businesses in town to get their finances in order.
It was a pay cut, compared to what he made at the Company, but it was safer. He could stay under the radar, do his work, and make money for his family. That was all he wanted – to keep his head down and work.
Marga was finally letting herself relax. She had felt fine, truly, but it was also nice to finally be able to relax like the doctor told her to. She’d spent so much time being scared about Pablo, and then being relieved that he was alright, she’d barely had time to think about herself, let alone the baby.
But now she had the time. And she was so scared. It helped having Pablo around, it helped that Oscar was there, it helped that the war was done and they could do things like they used to.
But, still. The tradeoff for that relative security and comfort meant that she now could – and had to – think about the future. Her future. No matter how scary it could be, no matter how much the potential for heartbreak could be, she had to think about it and accept the possibility and just find a way to live with it.
Oscar largely worked from the apartment, so he was around to help Marga with anything she needed – he prepared meals, he split the household chores with Pablo, he made ginger runs to Victoria. His work allowed for flexible hours so it wasn’t that uncommon for him to spend the mornings interviewing the neighbors, the afternoons looking after Marga, and the nights typing away, lulling his hosts (roommates, at this point) to sleep by the sound of typewriter keys clicking away.
And then they would wake up the next morning and do it all over again.
Until one night, that is. On this one night, a banging on the door woke them all up.
Pablo woke first – waking up for any sudden noise was not something he was going to shake any time soon.
“There’s someone at the door?” Marga asked, also waking up with a start. They’d been assured that the air raid sirens were a thing of the past, but she still couldn’t shake the immediate, deep fear that came from the fundamental danger and instability that they all lived with for years, but never quite entirely got used to.
“I’ll get it,” Pablo said, getting out of bed. “I’ll tell Oscar to hide.”
“It’s okay,” Pablo said, kissing her head. “If it were any real trouble, they’d have found a way in by now.”
Weirdly, that did comfort Marga.
She watched in the dark as Pablo went to the front door. She could hear him walk down the hall, she heard the door open, she head the hushed whispers.
Then, she could’ve sworn she heard Carlota.
She got up and headed towards the door.
“Marga!” Carlota said, practically rushing past Pablo. She was happy to see her, sure, but also she looked sad. She looked pained. “What are you doing up?”
“Well, someone was banging on my door.”
“You should be in bed.”
Marga rolled her eyes and Pablo shot her a supportive look. He very quickly learned that Marga did not at all like being told to calm down, or rest, or sit, or anything like that.
“Carlota, come in,” Pablo said, already taking her coat.
Marga shot him a glance, now.
“Oh,” Pablo said, freezing, awkwardly having half-removed Carlota’s coat and holding it still on her, but nearly off.
“What?” Carlota asked, looking between them. Neither of them were sure how to say it. Carlota wriggled herself free from her coat and turned to face them properly. “What?!”
“Oscar is staying here,” Marga said. “He’s been living with us.”
“You didn’t notice he wasn’t at your place?” Marga asked. “Where did you think he was?”
“I haven’t been home,” Carlota said. “I thought he was there, I didn’t want to just show up.”
“He didn’t want to live in your house without you.”
“Our house,” Carlota offered quietly. She sighed.
“Carlota, I’m sorry,” Marga said. “I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to stay here tonight. You know Amalia next door, she may let you stay the night.”
“No, I’ll just go home, I don’t want to bother her,” Carlota said. “And, to be honest, I don’t think I could sleep here knowing Oscar is next door and I’m not speaking to him.”
Marga nodded. She understood, she did. But Carlota did not look well. Marga loved her friend, but after spending so much time with Oscar and seeing how heartbroken he was, Marga did also have a clouded view of Carlota. That wouldn’t stop her from being there for her, though.
“I don’t know, Carlota. Can you be alone right now?”
“I’m fine,” Carlota said, though she herself didn’t even look entirely convinced of that.
“Let me take you home,” Pablo said, already grabbing both their coats from the hook.
“It’s okay, really,” Carlota said.
“I’ll take you home,” Marga said at the same time.
“That’s really not necessary,” Carlota countered. She knew it wasn’t safe being out at night, especially for a woman. She didn’t want Marga coming, certainly, and also didn’t want Pablo to risk it.
The protest was going to continue, but all three of them heard footsteps from the hallway.
Oscar walked towards them in silence, holding expressionless eye contact with Carlota, daring her to make the first move.
He closed the door, leaving her outside and turning to a stunned Marga and Pablo.
“I don’t mind if she stays,” Oscar said. “If you two don’t mind.”
Marga and Pablo exchanged a look. They didn’t mind.
“Are you sure?” Marga asked. “Because we can figure something out.”
“She doesn’t have anywhere else to go. She shouldn’t go all the way to the apartment at this hour,” Oscar said.
“Okay,” Marga said. “Thank you.”
“Thank you,” Oscar said. “Because she’s sleeping on the couch.”
Marga chuckled and Pablo smiled a bit. He knew what it was like to have the woman you love pick someone else. It wasn’t the exact same situation, but hurt was hurt. He was happy to help Oscar through it. He was glad to have him as a friend.
“Good night,” Oscar said, then turned back.
He went back to his room and went back to bed.
Marga only opened the door once she was sure he was gone. She was relieved to see Carlota still standing there.
“Come in,” she said. “The couch is all yours.”
“Thank you,” Carlota smiled warmly. She was happy to see her friends and she knew they were happy to see her. But she could also tell something shifted. She hadn’t just hurt Oscar – she’d hurt them too.
Oscar was surprised to see Carlota in the living room the next morning. She wasn’t asleep on the couch, no – she was straightening up. Oscar stood there for a moment, watching her fold a blanket and readjust pillows, like he’d seen her do countless times. Carlota took a certain pride in it – she grew up with maids and housekeepers, and she was proud to have gained those skills for herself as an independent adult.
“You’re still here,” Oscar said, half a statement and half a question.
Carlota stood up perfectly straight and turned to face him. “You live here,” she said, also a statement and a question.
“For now,” Oscar said. “With the war over, people are banding together.”
Carlota frowned a bit, looked away for a second. “What time does Marga usually get up? I need to talk to her.”
Oscar checked his watch. “Soon, usually. I usually make breakfast for everyone before I go.”
“Can I help?”
“I’ve got it,” Oscar said. He paused a moment, took a breath. “Thanks.”
“I don’t mean to hang around,” Carlota said. “I just need to talk to you and Marga.”
“To me and Marga?”
“And with you, of course,” Carlota said. “Separately. Without Marga. I just…I didn’t want to show up in the middle of the night without warning and ask that of you.”
“Then why did you?” Oscar asked, setting about making breakfast.
The atmosphere was…strange. Neither of them planned on having it out right then and there, in Marga and Pablo’s kitchen while they both still slept. But it also had become very clear that they couldn’t go on ignoring the things they needed to discuss, not entirely.
Oscar continued preparing breakfast, facing the cupboards and the stove and everything but Carlota. His tone was calm, like he was asking her how she liked her eggs cooked. He already knew the answer to that question, though.
“I want to be here,” Carlota said.
“What was wrong with Berlin?”
Carlota exhaled deeply. “We got to Berlin and some other reporter from James’ paper was already there. James called the paper and they told him to go to Czechoslovakia, but be ready to move when Hitler invades somewhere else.”
“They think he’s going to invade somewhere else?” Oscar asked, turning slightly. “He already got Austria and Czechoslovakia, what else does he want?”
“And Lithuania. They think he wants everything.”
“Everything? All of Europe?”
“Well, probably not Spain,” Carlota said. “Or Portugal. They don’t think Franco will want to get involved since he just got power, but if he has to pick a side…”
“He’ll pick Hitler,” Oscar said, stirring the pot with some force. “Fuck.”
Carlota didn’t know what to say. There wasn’t anything to say. They were both journalists, they both kept up with the news and usually could tell where the news was headed. If they really let themselves think about it, they could see how it was going to go. They knew first hand that unless fascism was met with force, it wasn’t going to stop on its own. And even then, opposing force didn’t always work. They certainly knew that.
“I’m not going to Czechoslovakia,” Carlota said. “I’m not a war reporter. Our work here went so well because we knew what we were talking about. I can’t just go there and start sending out reports like I know what it’s like for the people there.”
“So what’s James doing?”
“He’s doing what he did here,” Carlota said. “He’s reporting on the war, yes. But he’s helping local journalists get their stories out.”
“Did he even ask you to go with him to Czechoslovakia?” Oscar asked. It came out snappier than he meant it to, but it was exactly the question he wanted to ask.
“Yes,” Carlota said after a moment. “And I said no.”
Oscar nodded a bit. He laughed, though again he wasn’t trying to.
“What did you think would happen in Berlin? That you two, never having been there before, would do all this great reporting on your own? You didn’t he’d pick up some random young reporter and take her under his wing and get her to abandon her old life?”
“I didn’t abandon you-.”
“Yes, you did!”
They heard stirring in the other room and they both immediately straightened up, dropping their voices to much lower.
“How is Marga doing?” Carlota asked.
Oscar sighed a bit. “She’s doing alright. She’s finally able to get some rest, which is good.”
“Good, I’m glad.”
“What do you need to talk to us about?” Oscar asked.
Carlota sighed deeply, not ready to bring it up. It was a conversation she really wanted to have once.
Oscar shook his head a bit, getting back to his business. “Grab some bowls, will you?”
They had breakfast set on the table by the time Pablo and Marga came out of the bedroom.
“Good morning,” Pablo said, a little shy.
“Good morning,” Carlota jumped right in. “I’m sorry if we woke you up.”
“We were getting up anyway,” Marga said. She looked between two of her closest friends. “You two made us breakfast?”
“It was all Oscar,” Carlota said, sitting once Marga and Pablo did.
“Carlota, what brings you back to Madrid?” Marga asked.
Carlota steadied herself. She knew now was the time to get into it, to do what she came to do.
“When I was travelling, I heard some news. I wasn’t sure if you heard.”
“About what?” Marga asked.
“Sofia is safe,” Carlota said. “It’s a long story, but Lidia got her safely back in Republican hands. She got hurt, she’s still recovering, but she’ll be alright.”
“Where is she?” Marga asked.
“She’s in a hospital near Valencia,” Carlota said. “She can’t really travel still, but she’s with a friend, Felipe. He’s taking care of her. She’ll be alright.”
“We need to get her,” Marga said, looking at Pablo.
“Felipe is taking care of her,” Carlota repeated. “They were in the army together and the got tangled with some pretty big names on the Nationalist side. I saw them, they’re going to lay low. I got a number to contact her, and I made sure she has yours if she needs anything.”
That at least set everyone at ease. They preferred having Sofia there with them, but it was good to know she was safe. Things with Carlota were rocky but if she thought Sofia was safe, they believed her.
“Thank you for telling us,” Marga said. “Have you heard anything else?”
“Carlos is dead,” Carlota said gently. She could tell by the surprised reactions that they didn’t know.
“What?” Pablo asked. “No, we’ve been checking the news every day. Twice a day! They always say when they’ve killed a Republican officer.”
“He wasn’t just a Republican officer though, was he?” Carlota asked. “There’s proof out there – the negatives – that he was on the Nationalist side. He died…suspiciously, so they’re burying it. They buried him.”
“How did he die?” Oscar asked.
“They say he killed himself,” Carlota said. “Once Madrid and Valencia fell, the Republicans largely fled. They found Carlos’s body in the general’s office. They say he shot himself.”
“That doesn’t sound like him,” Oscar said after some stunned silence. He worked with Carlos, before the war. Carlos championed Carlota as a candidate, as a radio host, as a worker and journalist in her own right. He championed Oscar, making sure he got the position at the Company that a man of his qualifications and skill would get.
They all felt Carlos’s betrayals deeply. But they still, somehow, felt they knew him. This did not sound like him. He took his time, sure, but he did always come around to face his mistakes.
“It doesn’t,” Carlota agreed. “But that’s the official line.”
“What about Lidia?” Marga asked.
They all knew that of any of them, Lidia was the one most able to handle herself. They knew Lidia got into some very bad situations, but she always got herself out. She always got them out, too.
But as Carlota’s list of news went on, as they heard things that they didn’t think were possible, they all felt (even if they’d never believe it) the faith fall away a little bit.
“Lidia is alive,” Carltoa said. “But she’s in a camp. That’s all I know. I don’t know where, some people don’t even believe these camps exist. But that’s where she is.”
“They exist,” Pablo said. “Franco’s been deporting people left and right, and he’s not just letting them go anywhere. He’s punishing them, he’s tort-.”
He cut himself off.
“He’s torturing them,” Marga finished. She felt sick, she felt dizzy.
“Hey, she’s alive,” Carlota said. “That’s the important thing.”
“People don’t leave those camps,” Oscar said gravely. They all knew it, but it needed to be said.
“But the war is over now,” Carlota said. “Maybe they do.”
They wanted to believe that. No one actually did, though.
“We have to do something,” Marga managed to say.
“That’s why I’m here,” Carlota said. “Oscar, you were right. All the journalists are moving on to Berlin and the rest of Europe and those stories need to be told. But we can’t forget the people here. Their stories need to be told.”
“If we don’t shine a light on this, Franco will keep acting in darkness,” Oscar agreed.
Pablo nodded along, committed to the plan and moved by the bravery of his friends.
Marga nodded along, too, but she couldn’t shake the sick feeling in her stomach. In fact, nodding made it worse. Her vision blurred, she could swear that as she looked at her friends, the room moved around them.
Then everything went black.
sometimes a family is a married couple, their baby, and that baby's queer aunt and uncle
“Marga!” Carlota called out, shocked by this turn of events. She knew Marga was having issues with fainting, but she had never seen it.
She could tell that Pablo and Oscar had, though.
As soon as Marga started leaning toward one side, Pablo had leapt out of his chair to break her fall. He was kneeling beside her on the floor, turning her on her side and holding her there.
Oscar had sprang into action, too. He was in the kitchen, getting a small towel wet. He came back in and handed it to Pablo, who put it on Marga’s forehead.
“Come on, Marga, it’s okay,” he said gently and quietly.
Carlota could tell they had done this before, yes. But she could also tell it still scared them.
“This still happens?” Carlota asked Oscar, who was standing back by the doorway to the kitchen. Neither of them wanted to be in the way – Pablo knew what he was doing and he appreciated the space.
Oscar nodded. “Not very often, but yeah. I’m working on getting more food for her, or better food, or something.”
“Victoria can’t get anything?”
“There isn’t a huge black market demand for vegetables,” Oscar said. “A bag of lentils feeds your family for days, if you stretch it. It’s not worth it to get anything else.”
Carlota nodded. She understood. She’d heard stories like this everywhere.
“Mr. Garcia upstairs is starting a garden, though,” Oscar said. “He’s on the top floor, he has roof access.”
“He can do that?”
“No one explicitly said not to,” Oscar said. “But it is secret, so don’t go publishing it.”
Carlota nodded again. “I know some journalists here who haven’t left yet. I’ll see if they have any food leftover I can buy from them.”
“Thank you,” Oscar said. He sighed, dropped his voice lower. “With the rest of Europe heading toward war, I don’t think the food shortages are going to let up.”
Carlota nodded. “We’ll figure it out.”
“How, Carlota?” Oscar said. “Things are different than before the war, just having money isn’t enough. You have to join them. It’s not the same.”
“We have Victoria, we have connections-.”
“Our connections are not what they were-.”
“Hey,” Carlota said, taking his hand and looking him right in the eyes. “We will figure it out. I promise.”
Oscar held her gaze. He looked at her, taking her in. She was so different than the woman he met in the phone company – the woman who was late to her admission exam and was almost kicked out by Oscar.
But she was the same – the war changed so much, but Carlota was still the woman who would fight for what mattered to her.
Even if she hadn’t been acting like it lately.
He dropped her hand, looked away. He loved seeing the Carlota he knew, but it hurt still.
He could see Pablo and Marga moving out of the corner of his eye. He turned toward them, and Carlota did too. Their moment was done.
“Damn it,” Marga muttered, holding tight to Pablo as he helped her sit up.
“It’s okay,” he said gently. “Take it easy.”
“I’m okay,” she assured him, giving him a slight smile. “I can get up.”
Still, she leaned on him heavily and he basically lifted her up off the floor.
Pablo helped Marga to the couch, where she could recline a bit.
“Hang tight, love, I’m going to call work and tell them I can’t come in.”
“Pablo, no,” Marga said. “You need to go to work.”
“You’re not well-.”
“I’ll be fine,” Marga said. She looked over at Oscar and Carlota to back her up.
“I’ll be here,” Oscar said.
“Yeah, we’ll stay with her,” Carlota said. “She’s in good hands, Pablo. Promise.”
Marga gave him a look that she hoped look supportive, but she honestly wasn’t sure how much she could muster up. She was feeling better, but she certainly didn’t feel good.
“Pablo, I’m fine, the baby’s fine,” she said, smiling a bit as she felt Pablo put a gentle hand on her stomach and she put her own over it. “Oscar and Carlota are here. It’s fine. You need to go to work.”
Pablo nodded, jaw clenched. He hadn’t spoken about it much with Marga – he didn’t want to stress her out – but he was worried about money. They all were. Oscar had been contributing toward rent in ways that they knew didn’t come from just his journalism. They guessed it had something to do with Victoria, but he never talked about it. He simply handed them an envelope a few days after he started staying with them and refused to take no as an answer. He now gave them envelopes weekly.
Regarding Pablo’s work, the fact was, there were tons of refugees and veterans flooding into Madrid. It had been hammered during the war but it was still the best place to look for jobs and stability. The last thing they needed was for Pablo’s work to have a reason to fire him.
Pablo nodded. He hadn’t spoken to Marga about it much, but they knew each other well enough to know what was up.
“I will be home at five on the dot,” he promised, taking her hand in his and kissing it. “I will be here at five exactly and I will rub your shoulders the way you like, I’ll make you tea, I’ll…oh! I learned basic sewing in the army, I can finally fix that quilt your grandmother sent us-.”
“Pablo,” she cut him off, smiling. “Don’t worry about the quilt.”
“I’m not worried about the quilt, I’m worried about you,” Pablo said, quickly and quietly.
This was another thing they avoided talking about – how scared they both were. If they started talking about money, they started talking about the rest of it – what would happen if Pablo lost his job or even if it turns out his job isn’t enough. Marga isn’t in any condition to work, and that fact also scared them. They were scared about Marga and her health and the baby’s health. They were happy and grateful and they knew they were lucky – but at the same time, they were constantly terrified.
Marga squeezed his hand a bit, forcing him to look her in the eyes. He did and it instantly made them both feel better.
“The doctor said this would keep happening,” Marga said. “And that it would get better in a few months.”
Pablo nodded. He knew that. What money they managed to save went straight into a doctor fund. Doctors were in high demand but Pablo made sure Marga would be able to see one at least once a month.
“And, aside from that,” Marga continued. “We have each other.”
Pablo nodded. “We’ve been through so much, we’ll get through this.”
He kissed her. Then he stood up. “I love you. I’ll see you later.”
“I love you,” she replied.
Pablo went off to get dressed.
Oscar and Carlota sat in front of Marga.
“So,” Oscar said. “You feel up to having the rest of your breakfast?”
“Maybe just tea,” Marga said. With the rationing on, there wasn’t a lot of tea available and what was available was weak. Still, it was nice. It was a small comfort.
“Coming right up,” Oscar said, standing to get it.
“What else can we do for you?” Carlota said. This all seemed so new, so dire to her.
“I’m fine,” Marga said.
Carlota gave her a look.
“Really,” Marga insisted. “It’s okay. This doesn’t happen a lot but it does happen.”
Carlota still looked unsure, more unsure than everyone else. “I wish there was more we could do.”
“Everyone here is doing the best they can,” Marga said.
Carlota nodded. “Well, I’m yours all day,” she said after too long of a moment. “For anything you need at all, I’m here.”
“Oscar’s here, it’s okay.”
Again, Carlota sat with that a moment. She’d only been gone for less than a month but things moved on without her. She knew they did, of course, but still. It was weird to see.
“Here,” Oscar said. “I can heat it up if you want.”
“No, it’s perfect, thank you,” Marga said, sitting up a bit so she could take it.
Carlota expected Oscar to sit back down with them, but instead he headed toward the door. He came back with the newspaper and sat down by Marga again, splitting the paper up so they each had a section.
This was their routine – when Pablo was getting ready for work, Oscar and Marga read the paper.
After a moment of Carlota sitting there, taking it all in, Oscar considered handing her part of his section of the paper. But, despite living there for weeks, it wasn’t really his house. He couldn’t just invite her to stay, so he didn’t. At least, that’s the story he was going with.
“Carlota,” Marga said, picking up on the tension. “Really, it’s lovely having you here but you don’t need to stay. You didn’t come back to Madrid just to watch me sit around.”
“I want to be here for you,” Carlota assured her, taking her hand for a moment. “But, you’re right. This isn’t why I came back.”
Marga gave a glance toward Oscar, but he looked pretty stoic.
“Right, you wanted to update us on everyone,” Oscar said. “Which you did.”
Carlota looked at Marga then back at Oscar. She didn’t want to upset Marga; she knew she wasn’t well. “We can help Lidia, I think,” Carlota said. “We’re journalists. We’re experienced prison breakers, too, I mean…”
“This is different,” Oscar insisted, “than breaking me out-.”
Carlota nodded. She knew that, really. “I know. I just…there has to be a way.”
She had no idea what that way was. She had no idea if it even existed. She just needed – really needed – to believe it.
Oscar and Marga knew that need.
Oscar sighed deeply. “I know someone,” he said. He’d been wrestling with this since Carlota had told them about Lidia, he’d been wrestling with his journalistic integrity and his anger with Carlota and his love for her and his love for his friends. “I know someone who spied on the nationalists, made it through the war without getting caught and is out now.”
“Out? What do you mean, out?” Carlota asked.
“Not spying anymore,” Oscar said. “A lot of people who had a way in stayed in, they’re working with the resistance. But this one got out, had their fill of spying. Their working with the resistance in other ways.”
“You think they may know something?” Marga asked.
Oscar nodded slowly. “I think I could ask a favor. One favor, though – I can maybe get a location or something, I don’t know. But Franco’s keeping an eye on the press and anyone who talks to us could be in danger. No one is giving me so much information that it can be traced back to them.”
“Are you in danger?” Carlota asked.
“No more than you are,” Oscar said quickly. He looked to Marga. “It’s a risk, but I’m not in any more danger than I was before the war ended. I wouldn’t bring danger into your home, Marga-.”
“It’s okay,” Marga said. “This is important. We can handle it. We need to do whatever we can.”
Oscar sighed deeply. “Let’s everybody brainstorm for a bit and get back to this later. This is a lot of information to take in at once.”
He was simultaneously in awe of Marga and heartbroken by her. She looked unwell still and he could tell that though she said she was fine, she wasn’t and she hadn’t been in a while. He wasn’t sure when she would be, if she ever would be, and it scared him.
Marga could feel the love and concern from her friends and appreciated that it never turned into pity. She wanted to help, she wanted to do everything she could, but she barely had the energy to stay awake until Pablo got home from work.
She was happy Carlota was back but she was scared for her friends. She knew their journalism and their activism was dangerous and it always had been, but the Spain they railed against now was different, more dangerous, than the one they fought before.
They thought the War was going to be the most difficult period of their lives. While they were in it, spending years taking shelter at the drop of a hat and the wailing on a siren, walking to the market and to work and to home while dodging rubble in the streets, the thought that their lives would be better after kept them going.
And it was better for them. The bombs weren’t falling, the broken buildings were being rebuilt. But it wasn’t better for everyone, and better didn't always mean good.
Marga put her tea down on the table. “I think I’m going to rest a bit,” she said, lying back more.
Oscar nodded and stood, and Carlota followed his example. She watched as he turned on the radio and turned the volume down, then headed back into the kitchen.
Carlota followed him.
“This is what it’s like here?” he asked.
Oscar nodded. “She certainly doesn’t faint every day but, yeah, this is generally the routine. I took the radio from the apartment, I hope you don’t mind. She can't sleep when it’s quiet.”
“That’s fine,” Carlota said. “I get it. And you can take whatever you want from the apartment. It’s yours, too.”
Oscar gave her something of a look then set about cleaning up breakfast.
“You’re not going to eat anything?” Carlota asked.
Oscar shook his head. “No, we usually save it for Marga to make sure she gets enough.”
“I didn’t realize it’s that bad here,” Carlota said quietly.
“We’re used to it,” Oscar said matter-of-factly. “And we’re lucky. We have enough that Pablo and I can still usually have two meals a day. That’s not how it is for a lot of people.”
“I read some of your work,” Carlota blurted. “It made it out to Berlin.”
“Really?” Oscar smiled a bit, but didn’t give her the satisfaction of looking at her so she could see it.
“Yeah,” Carlota said. “The piece about food shortages, about making scrambled eggs from orange-.”
“Orange peels, yeah,” Oscar nodded. “I’m glad it got out there. I hope it helps people.”
“It does,” Carlota said. “You do.”
“You know we’re going to have to talk about it for real, right?” He wasn’t talking about the article.
“Yes, I do,” Carlota said, on the exact same page as him. “But I showed up in the middle of the night and sort of ambushed you. I don’t want to do that anymore.”
Oscar nodded again, appreciating that but not entirely sure where this was going.
“I know I hurt you,” Carlota continued. “And I know a lot of that and a lot of what I did and what happened with us was from me not hearing you. And I just wanted to say that I’m ready to, whenever you’re ready to tell me. And I’m sorry.”
“Thank you,” Oscar said after a moment. He was surprised to hear all that and also surprised that he actually felt better by it. Some weight lifted off his chest, the pain in his heart let up a little. “I’ll let you know.”
Carlota nodded, then took the dishes from him. “Now, you should go get some rest, too. You had some asshole knocking on your door in the middle of the night, interrupting your sleep.”
Oscar smiled a bit and found himself still smiling as he headed back into the other room and sat back down with the paper.
He settled into the chair, reclining a bit, getting comfortable as he caught up with the news.
Then he read something that made him sit up straight. “Carlota!”
A lot of research went into this! I didn't know much about the Spanish Civil War before a few years ago (honestly watching this show and realizing this was where the show was headed made me finally look up the war. ~Shockingly~, this wasn't covered in my schools in America. Which is sort of wild, given the meteoric rise of fascism in the US in recent years (it's been here as long as its been anywhere else but in case this wasn't obvious this is me talking about Trump. Fuck that guy and his supporters).
Anyway! I did research and hunger was a problem during the war and in the aftermath. Lentils were available and also there is at least one recorded recipe for scrambled eggs made from orange peels, somehow. This topic is serious and intense and full of tragedy and strife and sadness and I want to make sure that, even though I'm writing about fictional characters, the real history and real people who endured this are respected and remembered.
In that spirit, I've made a donation to UNICEF, which helps fight hunger worldwide. I strongly encourage anyone reading this to contribute to UNICEF or contribute to some worthy cause in some way! It doesn't have to be money - you can donate time to a food bank, you can even just post the link to the donation page of a charity you like on your social media. And as always, call out fascism and abuse of power when you see it - in your government, in your communities, anywhere and everywhere. Every little bit helps, so please do what you can. Thanks! <3
Obrigado a Marilia por me encorajar a atualizar!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“What?” Carlota said, rushing in to where Oscar was.
“Look at this!” Oscar said, handing the paper to Carlota. It was a puff piece, propaganda, about all the rebuilding the Franco government was doing. This photo in particular showed a newly constructed prison camp and there were smiling fascists standing in front of the gates, happy to show their work.
“Carmen Cifuentes,” Oscar nodded. “I knew she wasn’t dead.”
“She’s running a camp?”
“Of course she’s been working with them this whole time,” Oscar said. “She had money, she had connections, she always loved everything the fascists stood for. She was probably just waiting until the war was done to come out of hiding.”
“Why would they put her in charge of a camp, though?”
“I don’t know,” Oscar said, standing next to Carlota and studying the picture. He suddenly moved, though, toward the phone.
“Who are you calling?”
“Francisco,” Oscar said. “He’s the only one left who knew her well.”
“Does he know about Lidia?”
“I don’t know.”
“You shouldn’t use this phone,” Carlota said. “We should call from somewhere else. Not from here.”
Oscar nodded. “Can you stay with Marga? I’ll go call him from a public phone.”
“It’s okay, Carlota,” Oscar said. “I know how to avoid people listening in on my phone calls.”
Carlota smirked a bit. It reminded her of the old days, when they first met.
“I’ll be back, okay? Give me an hour.”
He quickly gathered his things and left.
Carlota studied the photo and the article in the paper, trying to find anything else useful. She was so engrossed in it that she didn’t notice when Marga came back out from her bedroom.
“Hey,” Marga said, and Carlota looked up, surprised to see her.
“Hey,” Carlota said, sitting up straight. “How are you?”
“Better,” Marga said. “This is fine, it hap-.”
“Happens, right,” Carlota agreed, smiling a bit. “Can I get you anything?”
“You can eat something,” Marga said, sitting across from her. “I know the others ration food and skip meals.”
“Carlota.” Marga gave her a look like she was serious. “I mean it. You’re a guest in my house, you will eat.”
Carlota smiled a bit. It’d been a while since she felt like she was at home. It was nice to have that feeling, to feel cared for like this. Then she realized there was a reason she hadn’t felt like that in a while, there was a reason things with Oscar were complicated, and her smile fell.
“How’s Oscar doing?” she asked.
“He’s good,” Marga said, heading to the kitchen and making Carlota follow. “He’s still doing his journalism, he’s really advocating for the people here. Where is he, by the way?”
Carlota paused, thinking of what to say. She didn’t want to lie, but she didn’t want to worry her.
She settled on the truth, though. That felt right.
“He’s out making a call to Francisco,” Carlota admitted. She nodded toward the other room where the newspaper was. “We saw an article, Carmen Cifuentes is alive and apparently running a camp.”
“Yeah,” Carlota said. “And if I had to bet on where Lidia ended up…”
“Carmen finally got her,” Marga said. She leaned back against the counter. “Jesus.”
Carlota nodded. “Yeah. Francisco’s the only one left we can talk to who knew Carmen so, I don’t know. Maybe he knows some contacts or something.”
“I hope he knows something. He must be worried sick.”
“Yeah,” Carlota agreed. “I can’t imagine what it’s like for him right now.”
Marga just nodded in agreement. It was hard to think about this, it was hard to accept the situation.
“We’re going to get her back, though,” Carlota assured her friend. “We’re going to get Lidia back and we’re going to get her back to her family.”
“How? There’s a plan?”
“No,” Carlota admitted.
To her surprise, Marga laughed a bit.
“The time we most desperately need a plan, Lidia’s not here,” Marga said ruefully. “She was always the planner.”
Carlota grinned, too. “We’ve all been friends for a long time, maybe it’s rubbed off.” She thought better for a second. “It’s definitely rubbed off. We’re her family, we’re going to get her back.”
Marga smiled a bit wider, but also a couple tears fell down her cheek. She wiped them away quickly.
“Oh, no!” Carlota exclaimed. “I’m sorry, don’t cry!”
“I know we’re going to get her back,” Marga said. “We will. I can’t wait.”
Carlota gave her friend a hug. She didn’t have any siblings really but this is what she thought it was like - her and Marga and Lidia and Angeles, before.
“Hello?” Francisco asked.
Oscar sprang to action, calling him by the codename he hadn’t used in years, the one they used when they were spying for the king all those years before.
He heard a pause and wondered for a moment if Francisco hang up.
But he didn’t. He replied with Oscar’s code name.
“Have you found her?”
“No,” Oscar admitted. “Listen, we know she’s in a camp but we don’t know where.”
“We’re working on it, I promise,” Oscar said.
“I’m coming there-.”
“No, you’re not,” Oscar said. “Really. We’re going to get her back and she needs a safe place to come home to, to you and your daughter. Stay put. I do need information, though.”
“Anything,” Francisco promised, a breathless declaration of his devotion. He would do anything for Lidia – that’s how he justified his current predicament, that’s how he justified leaving her and Carlos behind all those weeks ago. He didn’t know anything about what happened to them and he had spent weeks trying to find out, while also traveling back to America to reunite with Eva.
Fatherhood had changed him, both as Eva’s father and as Sofia’s. Neither of them called him “dad” but that didn’t matter. He loved them like they were his own and he loved them because they were Lidia’s. And they loved him back.
A past version of him would’ve risked anything and everything to rescue Lidia, he was so singularly focused. But he wasn’t that way anymore – through building a family with her, he understood her more. He understood her commitment to everyone she loved, he understood how loving someone sometimes meant leaving them behind. He know the best way to love Lidia was to care for their daughter, and that’s what he did.
So, if Oscar was saying it was best to stay away, Francisco believed him. Lidia and her friends were always better at plotting and planning than he was, anyway.
“We need to talk about your former mother-in-law,” Oscar said. “We know she is in charge of a camp. I’ve seen stuff like this before, I think she gave land she owned to the fascists. What properties of hers do you know about?”
“Oh, a ton,” Francisco said. “She liked having land, her husband used to hunt. They’re all around Madrid, though. She didn’t like to be far from the city.”
“Really?” Oscar asked. He was imagining Lidia was somewhere far. “If I described the photo, do you think you could identify it?”
“I think so, yeah,” Francisco said.
Oscar described the photo and Francisco immediately recognized it. He knew exactly the place, he said he remembered standing in front of the gates Oscar described.
“Thank you for your help,” Oscar said. “Really.”
“Thank you,” he replied. “She’s been so lucky to have friends like you.”
“We’re going to get her back.”
“I know.” Francisco sounded like he believed it, too.
“Listen, there’s something else,” Oscar said. “Carlos is dead.”
Francisco was silent for a long time. “What?”
“He was on the wrong side,” Oscar said. “And he paid for it.”
“Who did it?”
“Officially, himself,” Oscar said.
“Officially…” Francisco exhaled deeply.
“Yeah,” Oscar said grimly. He didn’t care he wasn’t using a code name for Carlos – Carlos was a common name and Francisco deserved to hear the truth plainly. “I’m sorry.”
There was more Oscar wanted to say – he knew Francisco still loved Carlos deep down, after all these years and after everything. Carlos was a brother to him at one time. Carlos was the person who made him into the man he is, Carlos was the man who made Madrid home for Francisco. Even after all the shit, it was hard to let all that go.
“I don’t know if his sister knows,” Oscar continued. “No one’s seen her, no one’s spoken to her.”
“I’ll see if I can find her,” Francisco said. “She should know.”
“I’m sorry,” Oscar said.
“No, thank you for telling me,” Francisco said. “I’ll wait to tell the kids until their mother comes home.”
Oscar shut his eyes. He knew Eva’s situation with her father was rough – Lidia didn’t talk about it much, but when she did, it clearly broke her heart that Eva didn’t have a relationship with her real father. And now she never would.
“I’m sorry,” Oscar said again, knowing there was too much to say and not knowing how to minimize it.
“Thanks for calling,” Francisco said, wrapping it up. “I’ve got to get going.”
“Give us a call if you need anything,” Oscar said. “We’re family.”
“I know,” Francisco said gratefully.
Oscar came home exactly an hour later.
He found Carlota and Marga chatting in the kitchen and he smiled; it reminded him of old times. Then he snapped out of his reverie and cleared his throat.
“I think I found it.”
“What?” Carlota asked.
“I got the name of a place from Francisco and I spoke to some friends, they are confirming that the camp is where I think it is and that Carmen Cifuentes is there.”
“Wow,” Carlota breathed.
“I have that friend I can call in a favor with,” Oscar said. “I think we can get proof Lidia is there.”
“Okay,” Marga said. “Why? What do we do with the proof?”
Oscar exhaled unevenly. He had wracked his brain for a plan and this was all he could come up with and he knew it wasn’t good enough. It was something, it would help Lidia, but it wouldn’t close the camp. It wouldn’t save the other people.
“I think if we can get proof that Lidia is in the camp we can get the Americans to get her out.”
“What?” Marga asked.
Carlota just nodded once solemnly. She thought this might be the solution and she hated it too.
“This happens,” Carlota said. “The war is over, the new government is going to want to endear itself to other governments that’ll recognize it as legitimate.”
“The United States opposed the war, though,” Marga said.
“No, they were neutral,” Oscar said. “Officially, anyway. They supported the Republicans under the table but the big businesses – Ford, General Motors, the oil companies – supported Franco and they still do. So now the corporations and the new government want support from the American government, and the Americans want the new government to support them instead of Germany, when it comes to that.”
“So why Lidia?” Marga asked.
“She’s an American citizen,” Carlota said. “She’s lived there for years, she worked there. And she’s not really an enemy of Franco; she’s only been back for a couple months. They let her go, they get some goodwill with the Americans without losing a valuable prisoner.” She scoffed, tired of the cruelty of it all.
“You really think they’ll get her out?” Marga asked.
“I think it’s the best shot we have,” Oscar admitted, and Carlota nodded along. “We can’t go in and break her out, that’ll get more people hurt than it saves. We’re not a military. We can get the Americans to pay attention, maybe they’ll do something." Carlota scoffed at that, too and Marga didn't look particularly hopeful. "We’ll keep writing and fighting the fascists the ways we have been.”
“So, what next?”
“My friend is working on it,” Oscar said. “It’ll take a few days. In the meantime, I’m going to try to figure out who else is in this damn place, maybe at least we can inform their families.”
“I’ll help,” Carlota said quickly. “If-if you’ll have me, I mean,” she added.
“Sure,” Oscar said. He looked to Marga. “We should probably get out of your hair.”
“You’re not in my hair,” Marga said, but she got looks from her friends like they didn’t believe her. “Really, you’re not.”
“Marga, your two best friends are living with you and your husband. It’s a little close-.”
“I like having you here,” Marga said, cutting Oscar off. “Both of you. And Pablo does, too. You’re family and family should stick together. So, you have a place here for as long as you want it.”
“Are you serious?” Oscar asked.
“Yeah, Marga, because we know you have a lot going on…”
“I know it’s not traditional,” Marga said. “But Pablo and I have talked about it. You two are always welcome here and actually, we want you here. We love having you here. You’re family, really.”
Oscar and Carlota exchanged a glance. It had been a while since they’d been spoken about as a unit like that. They both missed it and they both really loved Marga.
“Take some time to think about it,” Marga said. “You don’t need to answer right now and you can go whenever you want, of course. Just don’t feel like you need to.”
“What do you think?” Oscar asked later while pouring over the newspaper and their other resources. “About staying here?”
“I would love to,” Carlota said. “I just…I don’t want to be here if you don’t want me here.”
Oscar looked at her. He supposed it was about time he admitted he wanted Carlota around.
“I don’t want you to leave.”
“I won’t,” Carlota said quickly. “I mean it. I need to be here, I want to be here. The work we’re doing, the things we can do here…” She paused a second. She figured it was about time to admit she wanted to be there for him. “I’m sorry I left. I’m sorry for what I did with James. I was…I was scared. I was scared of being stuck here but I’m not stuck here. I could never feel stuck with you, I see that now.”
“I’m sorry you felt like that,” Oscar said. “And I’m sorry I haven’t been great at communicating lately.”
“You have nothing to apologize for-.”
“I do,” Oscar said. “Because I mean it and because I want us to be past this.”
“I want that, too,” Carlota said. She took his hand. “I want to be where you are, I want to be with you. And…god, I feel stupid. I think I got so caught up in the idea that we could do so much, we could be these big journalists that travelled the globe and got bylines in newspapers all over the world and that meant we were making a difference. But I know now that that stuff doesn’t matter. There’s work to do here.”
“If you want that, if you want to travel and do all that stuff, I…want you to do that,” Oscar said. “All this work is important.”
“I don’t want that, Oscar,” Carlota said. “I swear. Part of why I love this work is because I do it with you.”
Oscar smiled a bit. He felt the same way.
“And you stayed here, supporting these people, telling their stories,” Carlota said. “I don’t want to just chase stories. You stayed, you continued the work here because you built a really solid foundation here. I want to be a part of that. I don’t want to abandon the work we’ve done as journalists and as…as us, you know?”
“I want us to be us, too.”
“So,” Carlota started, grinning. “We’ll do it then? We’ll move in?”
“I was thinking,” Oscar said. “We could move everyone into our place.”
“That’s a great idea,” Carlota agreed.
“Right? It’s bigger, you won’t have to sleep on the couch. There’s plenty of room for Marga and Pablo and the baby.”
Carlota nodded happily. “Yeah, that’s a great idea. Then they won’t have to pay rent here, either and they can save up.”
“We can bring it up tonight.”
Marga and Pablo loved the idea. They were surprised by it, sure – they intended to have Oscar and Carlota move in for real, not to have them all move out. But it made sense – it was a bigger place, it made sense for them to live somewhere they actually owned instead of renting a place.
So, they agreed and got to planning. They were renting monthly, anyway, so they could leave at the end of the month.
That night, Marga and Pablo spent some time together and Carlota and Oscar continued their work.
“It’s getting late,” Oscar said, standing. “I think I’m going to go to bed.”
“Yeah, you’ve been working all day,” Carlota agreed. She helped him pack up and headed toward the couch. “Good night.”
“I know we haven’t moved yet, but you don’t have to sleep on the couch.”
Carlota looked at him, eyebrows raised.
Oscar nodded toward his room. “Come on.”
Carlota smiled wide and followed him.
There’s a lot to say right now. I’m a white American living in America and I want to use this privilege to say, unequivocally, that Black lives matter. Police brutality is real and widespread and it needs to stop. These issues are not only happening in America, though – I guarantee wherever you are in the world, there is racism in your country. We need to do better. We need to be actively anti-racist and anti-state violence. It is so important to talk to our peers, to engage with our communities and families and friends and governmental representatives and combat racism any time it appears. If you’re white – we need to do better. We have privilege and we need to use it to end racism and state violence.
Please do what you can. I’m sure you’ve seen donation pages for bail funds and mutual aid funds – please donate what you can. If you want to protest, please do it safely (with a mask and with contact info for legal aid written on you. If you’re filming police, do so safely. If you’re filming protestors, fucking don’t.). Again, one of the most important things is calling out racism right in front of you – at home, with your friends, in the workplace. No more letting a racist comment slide because calling it out would be impolite.
Also, happy Pride. The first Pride was a riot and if you’re okay with that but not okay with the protests right now, you need to do a lot of introspection to figure out why that is. Be on the right side.
Also also, the US government and corporations have collaborated with fascists for as long as there have been fascists. I would like to be perfectly clear - this is disgusting and unacceptable. This has been included in the story because it is important to talk about and I'd like to be very clear that I am completely against this, as are the characters. The US government and many of its richest citizens have profited off of fascism and other human rights abuses. We all need to be vocally opposed to fascism in all its forms.
Sorry to do this, but I really wanted to update before the new episodes came out.
I don't have a chapter to post, though. Things have been really hectic lately for me and I just haven't had any writing motivation. I had an idea of how I wanted this story to end but I didn't have a great idea of how to write it, so I'm just going to post how the story ends.
They get Lidia out, of course. When I originally started writing this, I thought they'd just get her somehow and they'd probably use Oscar and Carlota's journalist contacts and Victoria's contacts to get her out. I didn't think I'd think of a well-written and respectful way of getting everyone out, so I didn't think I would write that. I say "respectful" because to me, it feels a little disrespectful to throw fictional characters and their drama into real life tragic situations. The atrocities committed by Franco's government were not about Carmen Cifuentes' vendetta on Lidia, so it felt wrong to me to put Lidia in a camp so Carmen can exact revenge, when in real life real people went through that trauma. I don't think I'm explaining this well but that's the basis of it - I, as a writer, don't like putting fictional characters in real life horrific situations like Franco's camps as a plot point. There were real people there, their stories can be told.
Also relevant to this, though, is I'm not Spanish, I don't live in Spain or Europe, I and my family/community don't have the history of being victims of Franco. So I recognize that while I wouldn't write that story, someone from a group that was persecuted like that is in an entirely different situation and should be able to engage with their community's story that way.
Which brings us to this story here - I realized I couldn't write this story (originally about Marga and Oscar and Carlota) without addressing Lidia's situation, because the characters would've been invested in her situation. It felt more wrong to ignore it and also I'm grateful I could write about things in this story like the way people in Spain endured under Franco and the United States' complicity in the Franco regime's cruelty.
The trailer for the final episodes came out and they seem to be freeing everyone in the camp, so in this story, they all also would've been freed. I think Oscar and Carlota would've gotten their American contact to intervene and they would've had the camp shut down in exchange for Lidia and any other Americans' safe passage back to the US, and subsequently the US would agree to leave the rest of the camps alone. I think this would've been a likely solution that felt real to the story I've written and the show, but also to history - the US has a long disgusting history of forgiving and forgetting the cruelty of fascist regimes if they can benefit in any way from it.
So Lidia would've gone back to the US and she wouldn't be able to return to Spain, and after a while Marga, Pablo, their kids, Oscar, Carlota, and Sofia would go see Lidia in America and there would be a great big reunion and there would be the feeling that everyone was alright and they were going to continue to be alright.
So, that's how the story would've went. I'm sorry I wasn't able to write a real chapter but I hope this helps wrap it up a bit.
Thank you for reading and again, Black Lives Matter and fight fascism wherever you come across it. Enjoy the last episodes!