Love In the Time of Cold Civil War or The Ballad of Jane and Tom

Part One

By Kristina Tehrani copyright 7/26/2021

In the near future, the United Districts of the North has split into two clear factions- the Group Think Party and those who seek to resist a totalitarian society. The split is neatly halved, with the Group Think Party attempting total dominance over the population who seek individual freedoms- otherwise known as the Resistance Party.

Factions of both persuasions are uniting and organizing on both sides although it seems the dystopian government wants to primarily cater to the communist agenda. Protests and rallies occur multiple times a day. Those on both sides are confused about whether they are being separated purposefully by the corrupt government- run by a small number of high power executives or whether their causes have some overlap.

For those that got involved and attend rallies, it is clear that they have chosen a side and although most of them are older, some are too busy organizing the resistance movement for any sort of personal life.

Jane is an organizer in the resistance movement. She believes that it’s possible that the corrupt government is attempting to divide people on multiple bases. Reason being, a nation divided cannot stand. Jane was doing her part, organizing, petitioning, spreading awareness. The last thing she expected was to fall in love.

Jane, in her late 30s, was not looking for a romantic partner. In fact, she was actively avoiding it. Too many things on her plate. She is working on herself, juggling several projects and professional business, has a lot of hobbies and is very active in those hobbies. She’s an avid reader, she’s a single parent, she’s trying to finish her damn book already but she’s also an activist.

One day, Jane went out to a rally with a few people she kind of already knew but there was someone unexpected there. She had been to a few of these rallies before and had not seen or noticed him before.

Tom drove up in an overheated compact black car that had duct tape everywhere and could only be described as “I can’t believe that thing runs!”. Pulled onto street parking, no going back and forth trying to get closer or further from the curb, and stumbled out of the vehicle in front of her, practically falling down. Alarmed, she offered him water immediately. He was red faced, pouring sweat and panting. She thought “this guy has heat stroke or something”.

He took the water, thinking it was soda for some reason- okay it WAS carbonated- but he drank it and said something like “I’ve been driving without air conditioning for three hours in a black car, who are you?” She said, “I’m with those guys, hey drink that water! You look like you’re going to collapse!”

He started to catch his breath and become coherent although both of them were a bit rattled (considering) that although she (Jane) hadn’t said so, she had also just raced over to the rally thinking it was at a later time for some reason. The man who stumbled out of his vehicle (Tom) appeared to be around her age, maybe a few years younger but they were both in their thirties. Nothing in particular struck Jane about Tom. He was very nondescript, just jeans and a t shirt blending in looking kind of person. Whereas Jane liked to wear colorful things and unintentionally attracted attention constantly. She usually didn’t notice though. And if she did notice, she rarely cared. Her clothes did not match. She was wearing bell bottoms practically and buttons on her plaid backpack- yes backpack- that say “be excellent to one another” and “peace”…not too many, just two.

Looking at these two people, you would probably think “huh? What do THEY have in common??”The lady has tattoos, an ear cuff, her hair is long and a bit messy. Her hair is black, her eyes almost look black- well they DO look black even up close because they are always dilated. Why?? Some Opthamalogist told her that there was a reason for this- she’s very sensitive to light and the eyes then dilate. So she wears sunglasses at night haha.

Her eyes are green mostly. A little bit of brown but nowhere near blue. Not even close. Her skin is olive toned and tan in some spots. She has been told she looks French or maybe Italian.

Tom, stumbling out of his car, appears to be her almost polar opposite. Cropped hair, very simply dressed, complete minimalist. Everything that adorned him had a purpose. He looked like a detective out of some 1950s film. All he needed was a black hat. But maybe that was left out on purpose? Too obvious?

The rest of the party arrives and decides to drive to a different location. Sally decided to walk as it was only a few blocks. The others, including Tom, drive as they wanted to be sure their cars would be safe. From robbery. And tire gouging. And possibly being set on fire? It’s happened! Recently! But Jane thinks “nah I’m not giving in to this, worrying is a waste of energy”.

A 10 minute walk later…

Turns out they are both smokers. Neither of them knew it at the time. Also they smoked the same brand of cigarettes. Having an inclination towards detective work- Jane, anyways (we’re still not sure about Tom)- she listens and takes notes in shorthand with pen and paper.

Toms Perspective:

She looks like a hippie- she seemingly came out of nowhere, her story checks out but she’s with US?? Tom thinks she’s a spy for the other side. What the hell is she up to? Hey, we have a lot in common I think. She’s dodgy with the questions, she can’t possibly be a reporter?? Then SHE comes up with the idea of drinking and having fun- okay…let’s see where this goes..pretty eyes.”

Jane is not a reporter, she just looks like one and its gotten her into hot water a number of times. She’s always looked that way and been evasive but as it turns out, that’s just how she learned to talk from her parents, who talked about politics and intrigue constantly. But she has no real connections to any detective agency or government agency or really any agency. She’s freelance and isn’t even selling the writing. And she’s not naming names. She keeps secrets when told.

They have too many drinks and end up back at her place. They literally dance- Jane leads because she has knows how to swing dance and teaches him. He’s a quick study. Both of them have all defenses down. Actually, they are having a ball. No kissing but how is that to be avoided? All night?? Can we ignore each other and go to sleep?? No. Not a chance. Doesn’t even come up.

Pretenses dropped, as Jane and Tom “watch” the movie (what movie?? I don’t know! Whatever is playing in the background!) maybe it was Inglorious Bastards, or something totally silly from the 1980s…does it matter?? Jane goes in for the kiss and that’s it. Dancing around the issue has stopped because she got her nerve together and just did it!

The response was completely welcome and mutually received. There was no hesitancy, no awkwardness, everything felt completely natural. They stumbled to the bedroom, attempting but failing to shed clothing along the way…Janes shirt was half off, Toms pants were completely off but he was still wearing very thick athletic shorts underneath! Sally couldn’t believe how many layers this man was wearing.

And what you would expect to happen, happened. Several times. And every time was good. At least good. Good is putting it very mildly. Jane basically felt as if she had fallen in love with Tom. Literally overnight.

They didn’t sleep to anyone’s recollection. They talked and joked and told each other stories all night. Neither of them had planned on this.

The following morning, they went out and did fun things like going to antique shops and making jokes but also trying to figure out what in the antique shop was valuable and what was junk??

It was the best unplanned date ever. Yes, better than Before Sunrise the movie. Throw in the espionage and that will get some wires quickly crossed!

So on both sides, the vetting begins. The investigators investigate. Sally finds out everything about Tom (she thinks!) and it does seem consistent with his story…

Meanwhile, at least on Jane’s end, most of her friends seem cautious at best. Well, a few were very encouraging but others disapproved. The people in Janes circle who disapproved with the relationship were older men who had already expressed a romantic interest in Jane. Jane had not even considered that. Jane is a little too trusting at times and takes statements at face value.

The accusations began to fly from Janes circle of the resistance. Allegations included that Tom was a spy from the other camp, he was infiltrating groups and leaking classified information. When Jane asked for clarification or proof, she was told “not to ask questions of people who’ve been doing this a lot longer than you”. This was the opposite of what may have stopped Jane from digging deeper.

In fact, she found it downright condescending. She concluded that certain members of her circle were capable of childish behavior, but not before getting confused to the point of panic. Jane fell into a depressive episode that could have been quite serious.

In the end, she communicated with Tom that she was in trouble. She sounded cryptic and frantic and Tom was worried sick.

See, Tom relived that first day of happiness between the two of them almost as a holiday. Jane’s positive attitude and enthusiasm for the cause rejuvenated him. They also seemed to enjoy many of the same things and had circumstances been different, they may have been a normal, happy couple.

But circumstances being as they are- the weight of the world on their shoulders- neither was at their best. Not even close. Jane wasn’t entirely sure about Toms background, but she knew that since joining the resistance, she had to fight to stay positive. She had to fight to not let the desire to change everything at once consume her. She couldn’t- she really had a life outside the resistance.

Jane and Tom both dealt with their stress in different ways. Jane was the sort to bottle it all up and hope it wouldn’t explode publicly . She drank alcohol to quiet her mind and make an unhealthy escape from reality.

Before the outbreak of war, Jane had led a simpler life. Things weren’t perfect but they were easier. That was before the entire population of the country- and particularly her district- had enforced mandatory isolation for all citizens.

Jane wasn’t too sure about Toms coping mechanisms. She knew that he yelled at times. She knew that he brawled with other people. She knew he brawled with objects too. Not that Jane couldn’t match him in anger. Her fear was that if she let the anger take over, she would never be able to control it again. So she kept adding to her box of things she would “deal with later”.

Jane loved and still loves Tom. Tom says he worries about Jane and her drinking – which is likely a valid point. However, Jane takes care of herself in other ways. She watches comedy, she gardens, she reads and writes. Jane builds bridges and is wise enough to know that everything can change in a moment and so live all those moments like they’re your last.

She worries about Toms hunger and water strike. He refuses to discuss any of it. He has started to become angry with Jane when she asks him questions or refuses to listen to hours of yelling. And then being told that the act of asking questions is offensive.

Tom became more and more angry as time went on. He seemed paranoid- imagining devils in every shadow. He quarreled with Jane. Sometimes over nothing at all. Sometime his anger seemed to spring from now where at all.

After weeks of listening to Toms daily histrionics, Jane found herself in a position of wondering, “is it me? Is it him? What and why?”

The answer produced itself almost as if by dark magic. Jane became ill. So much so that she was bedridden. Tom showed very little sympathy for Jane’s misery. He behaved as if it wasn’t even happening.

Jane didn’t want to believe what she was starting to suspect…that perhaps Tom had been unfaithful and given her this illness. She asked Tom, point blank, whether he was ill, as well. His wishy washy response was all she needed to confirm that she did indeed need further medical treatment.

Jane found herself in a clinic, alone and afraid- on the verge of tears. She knew she would be telling the same story that many other women had told before- “I thought he loved me, he told me there was nobody else”.

But Jane was seriously ill and required emergency medical treatment. When she informed Tom of her illness and his role in it- he told her she was lying- that somehow the government was responsible. He called her and sent her messages until she cut off his methods of communication.

Not long after that, as Jane awaited the results of the rest of the testing- testing which confirmed that not only had Tom been sleeping with someone else- but that he picked up some dangerous illnesses along the way- she was contacted by a friend of Tom. The friend expressed concern over Toms behavior. The friend had no idea what had transpired between Tom and Jane, Jane reluctantly but dutifully reported the essentials.

Published by kristinatehrani

Born a first generation American, half Irish Catholic and half Persian Jew, I like to write about a childhood mired in the chaos of never knowing where I stood. The only constants in my life have been reading, writing and a passion for social justice. I am a nurse, a single mother, a domestic abuse survivor, radical feminist and outspoken advocate for logic, public health, gray areas, and purposeful dialogue. I know entirely too much about sociopaths, autism, and medieval British history. I write under a pen name to protect the privacy of my family.

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