Chapter One Thousand Nine Hundred Seventy-Six
26th April 1970
There was a serious question as to who was more terrified about what was going on. Ben’s mother or Kiki herself. For years, Kiki had warned him that the two of them came from radically different worlds. That had never been more apparent than this afternoon as Ben had watched every News Agency of note set up outside the Orthodox Cathedral before he had entered himself to wait by the doors.
Upon arriving to this spectacle, Ben’s mother had unexpectedly found herself the subject of some of the focus of the gathered Press as the mother of the bridegroom. Currently she was sitting in a folding chair that someone had found and if Ben had to guess, his mother had taken tranquilizers judging by the dazed, unfocused look on her face. If there were any justice in this, she would realize that she had gotten a small taste of what Kiki went through on any given day and that Kiki had had some rather good reasons for her actions. Because this was an Orthodox service, the congregants and witnesses were expected to stand through the services, so his mother had been lucky that a chair had been found so quickly. The Metropolitan had said that it would take no more than about forty-five minutes, which was about forty-four too long in Ben’s estimation.
Then there had been what Aurora had told Ben over the phone, Kiki had been on the verge of panic all morning. Questioning if they were making a huge mistake because this was going to change everything. According to Aurora, Zella hadn’t said anything. That was fortunate considering that she had never liked Ben and had merely tolerated him because she valued Kiki’s friendship. That had not prevented there from being incidents because Zella was one to act as opposed to just complaining. The most extreme example had been when Ben had inadvertently cornered Zella when he had tried to talk to her. She had ridden her motorcycle over one of his feet. Ben had wanted to tell Kiki that nothing was going to change, but he knew that he would be wrong. They were doing this in the full glare of the public eye, and the whole world would see it. It was impossible to say that Kiki was wrong here, things were going to change profoundly.
That left Ben standing there in an unfamiliar church, shuffling his feet. The Luftwaffe had strongly suggested that he wear the blue-grey wool dress uniform today and he was reminded of how itchy it was. The Metropolitan of Berlin looked at Ben happily. He ought to, Ben thought to himself, this wedding was increasing the visibility of his church like few other things could have and it was also a moment for the Russian community that lived in Berlin.
Kiki had told him why she had remained in the Russian Church despite the fact that no one had held her to it after the death of her mother, for Kiki it was about happy memories of her childhood. The Metropolitan had been almost gleeful months earlier when Ben and Kiki had approached him over this matter the first time that they had tried to plan this, only to have Kiki be sent to the Pacific. The Medical Service, and Luftwaffe had asked to be represented at this event, due to both the bride and groom being members of those service branches. Ben being a Reserve Officer in a Landwehr Airwing really didn’t matter. Those who Ben felt had a legitimate claim to be there were only Wim, his plane’s Systems Officer, as well as Ingo, Rolf, and Valentin, the members of Kiki’s former FSR team. There was a fifth member of the FSR team, Mitzi, but she was a part of the group of those who were going to be entering with Kiki.
Looking at the rest of the gathering guests, Ben was reminded of Kiki’s complaint about how it felt to her that everyone else had an agenda with this event and what she wanted had been disregarded. He had told her that she needed to speak up, but she had worried that people would say she was being selfish if she did that. Instead, she had just quietly watched them do it. Ben could see that it was continuing even as they were waiting for the ceremony to start and would probably resume at the reception the instant the toasts were finished. Kiki had joked that she should have her father and oldest brother ejected from these proceedings for exactly that reason.
“This is my neighbor Benjamin” Ben heard a voice say, “He can be a bit of a dunderhead at times, but Kiki likes him.”
He saw that it was Tatiana, Katherine’s oldest daughter holding a baby that stared at Ben with a curious look on its face.
“And just who is this?” Ben asked.
“My cousin Ingrid” Tatiana replied, “Ilse said that she needed a break and passed her off to me.”
“If Ilse is here then…” Ben started to say only to have a firm hand grab his shoulder.
“Congratulations” Kapitan-zur-See Albrecht von Richthofen, Ben’s former Commanding Officer in the Space Program said. It was rumored that Albrecht was on the shortlist to be promoted to Flag Rank and was slated to take over the Fleet Air Command, but that hadn’t happened yet. There were already too many individuals of the highest Ranks, both military and social, already. Ben watched as Albrecht collected Ingrid from Tatiana. It was odd to see the tough, no-nonsense Navy Captain gently carry his daughter off while chatting with his niece as they walked off to take their places.
Once again, Ben was left standing there, trying to remember what they had gone over at the rehearsal the day before. His father appeared next to him, which meant that things were about to get rolling. Ben’s father had watched this whole thing with a bit of detached amusement. He had never been a part of any organized religion and Ben suspected that if he had insisted that Ben and Kiki follow any tradition of Ben’s family then they might have gotten married at the University Library, not that Kiki would object. She had always been a voracious reader. When she had time for it, that is.
That was when Kiki finally entered the Cathedral. To Ben, she was the only one here who mattered. The rest of these people could go hang.