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Love as a Construct

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At two in the morning, the skyline of downtown Vilnius shone through Lithuania’s window. Company after company had erected their buildings and offices downtown across the river in the past few decades, soaring above Lithuania’s modest flat on the fourth floor, and the other buildings in the Old Town. They were quite a distance away, enough to give Lithuania peace while he slept. But sometimes, like now, he stopped what he was doing and looked out the windows, mesmerized by the very idea that his own city turned into this. The city on a hill with a wolf in Gediminas’ imagination had become one of the most prominent capitals in all of Europe.

So while the skyscrapers lit up, another light required Lithuania’s attention. This one came from his computer screen, a half-written e-mail to Poland that he should have sent two hours ago. Below it in the email chain was Poland’s previous message.

Dear Mr. Toris Laurinaitis,

I am writing this message to you in concern over the protests in Vilnius. Sources confirm to us that they may be inciting violence—against the Lithuanian state, our Community, and the Polish people.

We are most concerned with the last one out of these. As you very well know, ethnic Poles make up 20% of the Lithuanian population, most of them concentrated in the Vilnius region. Tensions between ethnic Poles and Lithuanians are growing stronger. Since many of these Poles also have Polish citizenship, it is the duty of the Polish state to protect our citizens at home and abroad.

I implore you. If nothing is done about these protesters, then the Polish Ground Forces shall have no choice but to intervene militarily in these troubled areas.

Please, Mr. Laurinaitis. I don’t want this situation to escalate more than it already has.

Best Wishes,

Feliks Łukasiewicz

Representative of the Republic of Poland

 

Lithuania’s first thought was that he needs to have a serious talk with his boss regarding military codes in the Community’s constitution.

His second thought was that he can’t believe Poland is so conceited as to suggest his military invading another’s.

With a groan, Lithuania rubbed his eyes and swiveled his chair back to his desk. His fingers tapped the thin metallic keyboard, his mind a mixture of Lithuanian words he needed to translate. Polish came naturally to him as the second most widely spoken language in his country, but his tired mind made it harder to think. Maybe if it were a letter it’d be easier. He enjoyed handwriting a letter more than typing an e-mail. But this message needed to be seen by Poland no later than the following morning. He could have had it done in less than five minutes if he spoke his message out loud and the computer wrote out his words and sent it that way, but no. He needed to write this out. Lithuania procrastinated on writing it all day. With the deadline looming ahead of him and the hands on his wall clock moving, this was the last thing he wanted to do.

Dear Mr. Łukasiewicz,

I understand your concerns about the Polish minority in Lithuania. They are Polish people and Lithuanian citizens. As an ethnic minority, they are afforded the greatest protections and freedoms given by the state, the Eastern European Community, and the United Nations. However, I must disagree with your call to breakup the protests. I have observed these protesters and they are gathered peacefully and non-disruptively. The use of force to terminate these protests would not only be unconstitutional, but also prove to them that their cause is in the right. As stated in Article 36 in the Lithuanian Constitution:

“Citizens may not be prohibited or hindered from assembling in unarmed peaceful meetings. This right may not be subjected to any restrictions except those which are provided by law and are necessary to protect the security of the State or the community, public order, people's health or morals, or the rights and freedoms of other persons.”

These protesters are not harming any Polish people. They are exercising their right to protest and assembly. None of them are armed and there have been no threats made to the Polish minority of Lithuania nor to the Polish state itself. Whether or not we both personally agree or disagree with their protests is another matter entirely. For now, the Lithuanian police or military will not break up these protests. They can grow as large as they wish so long as they are not disruptive or violent.

Sincerely,

Toris Laurinaitis

Lithuania twisted his mouth and read the e-mail again. All those hours drinking coffee and pacing and watching the skyline ended in a three-paragraph e-mail—two, if you discounted Article 36. He should add something else, something to make the message solid. He clicked beneath the final paragraph and wrote another.

I have spoken with Kataryna Chernenko, Raivis Kalniņš, and Natalya Arlovskaya, and all four of us agree to do nothing about the protests in our respective countries unless they intensify. Please take this into consideration the next time we meet so that tempers won’t flare. At the last conference six months ago, Ukraine would have thrown her tablet at Poland if Latvia and Belarus didn’t restrain her. There was only another time long ago Lithuania had seen her so furious…

Lithuania reread the paltry e-mail before adding one last sentence.

I will be attending the CEEC meeting next week in Warsaw, along with my CEEC delegation and President. We will not be late.

He deleted that sentence and wrote something else.

I shall be attending the CEEC meeting next week in Warsaw. My President and I wish to propose a topic for this meeting. We apologize for the suddenness of this, but we believe it is of the utmost importance. Many members of the Lithuanian Parliament would wish to bring up the influence of... The name was on the tips of his fingers but he wouldn’t dare type it. He settled on a safer alternative.

...the influence of the Community in Lithuanian foreign and defense affairs. I understand that the purpose of this is to strengthen our borders and boost our economy, at the expense of our personal economic autonomy.

However, I am worried that in the end this will compromise all of our security and this union will, instead of helping, hurt us instead. I have spoken with the representatives of Latvia, Belarus, and Ukraine, and they too call into question the methods of the Community. I wish to have a discussion about this during the meeting. I’m sure the others feel the same.

The President of Lithuania, her Minister of Defense, and I have already come up with talking points for the available topics and cannot wait to share them next week.

I will be online tomorrow for our weekly five-way chat. I hope that our discussion on the file you sent me will be constructive.

His groaned as he remembered the well over 1000 page document that Poland sent him and the others last week. Even while reading that, he managed to get in bed before ten in the evening. His stomach sank at the memory of that file; the protesters would go berserk if any news of it slipped out.

I give you my sincerest greetings and hope you are well.

Sincerely,

Toris Laurinaitis

Representative of the Republic of Lithuania

That was all? So short. One, two, five paragraphs. He lost precious sleep over this? When he put his mind to it, it took him only a half-hour to write.

With a sigh Lithuania figured he could do nothing to help this short e-mail. He shook his head and cursed his brevity—but what else could he tell Poland?

He read it over. Everything looked right, and he wrote his Polish correctly, or did to his half-asleep mind. But something about the tone of the letter didn’t sit right with him, but he couldn’t find what. This was a formal letter, so a formal tone was appropriate! He had written formal letters to Poland before, so why did this one feel foreign and wrong?

Dear Mr. Łukasiewicz— what else could he have written? He couldn’t have written Dear Poland: what if the e-mail was intercepted? Dear Feliks sounded too informal for a letter such as this.

To my darling Polska—

Lithuania shook his head, red rising in his cheeks. He had no idea why he thought of that salutation; he hadn’t used it in over 400 years. Back in the Commonwealth it was appropriate, even expected between them.

He sent the e-mail. The final timestamp was 25 August 2043, 03:17.

Lithuania got out of his chair, turned off his computer and crawled into bed. He threw the covers over himself and fell asleep.

And when he dreamed, he smelled the memory of rye.

***

A few hours later Poland closed out Lithuania’s e-mail in disgust.

He sat up in his bed and turned on his tablet, his habit every morning. He flipped through his e-mails—a video update from his boss about the meeting today interrupted his scrolling. Angry at Lithuania’s e-mail and having read through all his new messages, Poland closed the application and slipped his tablet in his briefcase.

With a sigh, Poland went through his daily routines: shower, breakfast, his news apps. The new surge of power going through him confirmed the Polish Financial Times story of the złoty growing stronger against the German Mark and Chinese yuan. However, he frowned when he reached the international page. The biggest headline spoke of the protests in the other nations of the Central and Eastern European Community.

He tapped on the national news and whimpered. The front cover showed photo of a man dressed in Ukrainian folk clothing breaking from a crowd and punching a Polish nationalist in the face. The headline read “Ukrainian Independence Day March in Warsaw Turns Violent.”

Poland scrolled down the article and read a beginning that had been all too common these days.

“What had begun as a peaceful march celebrating Ukrainian Independence Day turned violent when far-right nationalists and marchers clashed on the street…”

Next to the paragraph, a video from the march automatically looped.

“The fuck are you even doing here?” said another man, who had wrapped himself in the Ukrainian flag. “Don’t you have a language school to threaten?”

There was some yelling from the front of the nationalist mob, and three or four of them seized the Ukrainian man by his flag and hair. A few shouted and screamed before a Ukrainian man in a traditional costume—the one from the cover—punched the first nationalist in the face.

He launched himself at the Ukrainian man, who was being violently pulled away by another black-clad nationalist, before a Ukrainian woman in a similar traditional costume grabbed and kicked him between the legs and then—

Poland scrolled down on his tablet for a bit.

“Biedronka’s opening day in the United Kingdom has led to seven people being trampled by the crowd of hundreds—”

“These scientists are front-runners for the Nobel Prize in Physics, a first for Lithuania—”

“Polish universities are continuing to send their best and brightest to the Ministry of Defense. We are quite pleased with their work on the SmartCycles and other projects that will make the lives of Polish soldiers safer—”

“Students at Warsaw Polytechnic have continued their sit-in protesting tuition hikes—”

Poland went back to the Financial Times.

Poland brushed his teeth before sitting at his desk and opening his e-mail there as well. Poland sat at his desk and waited to be contacted for today’s informal meeting.

His watch vibrated.

Feliks, can you please come into the palace now. I need to you look over some forms and I want to vent about Nowak.

Poland slid out the digital keyboard for his watch. His President knew his schedule.

Can you wait an hour? I have a meeting with the others via tomogram.

Can you visit after then? She’s being a pain in the ass about the budget.

Aren’t you already raising military spending?

She wants it to be raised more.

Poland sighed. Nations were neutral in their political affiliations, but when a head of state had to vent—

Fine. I’m not sure when it’ll be over but I’ll be there by noon at the latest.

Thank you.

With increasing trepidation, Poland brought up the one e-mail sent by his boss that was sure to cause problems. The e-mail was a series of back and forth replies between his Minister of Economy, a few currency experts and economists, some words from his President and finally ending in a 1046-page PDF sent by the President of the CEEC’s Commission for the Economy detailing the proposed currency peg.

Poland configured his tomography camera on top of his computer. The small circular projector right next to the ceiling light in his room blinked green. He waited a few more minutes, holding his tea close to his chest and adjusting the tomogram sensor on his shirt.

His phone alarm went off, and Lithuania appeared in the room sitting on Poland’s bed.

“Hey,” Poland said, shutting off his alarm in the middle of the first stanza of “Dąbrowski’s Mazurka.” “You’re the first one here.”

Lithuania’s tomogram was imperfect—the edges of his outline were faded and his eyes were blue for some reason—but he was still in color. He looked like a tree with his slightly disheveled light green shirt and khaki pants.

“Hello as well,” Lithuania said. He raised a hand to his mouth and yawned. The tomogram even captured the bags under his eyes.

“Up late?” He wasn’t stupid. He read the time stamp on Lithuania’s e-mail. He was also awake when the email sent.

“Yes,” Lithuania responded. “I was reading that document you forwarded to all of us.”

“Oh?” Poland smiled a little. “What do you think about it?”

“I…” Lithuania raised a mug of coffee to his lips. Poland noticed with amusement that it had wolves on it. “My people will not be behind it. Most of my ministers will argue against it next week.”

Poland frowned. “Don’t tell me that loopy Defense Minister of yours is coming to Warsaw next week. He hates Poles.”

“His name is Laukaitis, and he doesn’t hate Poles. He’s my Minister of National Defense! He has to come to the joint meeting.” He sighed. “It’s too early to do this.”

Lithuania set his coffee down, and Poland looked at his phone. Latvia sent him a message saying that he would be ten minutes late due to filing some paperwork. He heard nothing from Ukraine or Belarus.

Across the room on Poland’s bed, Lithuania flipped through his phone. Lithuania’s tomogram might have been ten steps away, but there was an ocean between the two of them.

“Are you also getting that heat wave?” Poland asked.

“Sorry?” Lithuania set his phone down somewhere; it disappeared from his tomogram. “Oh, the weather? Yes, it’s going to be in the high thirties in Vilnius by the end of this week.”

“Same here.”

Lithuania nodded and picked up his phone again. Poland turned his chair to do the same, but he swiveled around again.

“Hey…”

Lithuania looked up. “Yes?”

“Um.” Poland scratched the back of his head. “You know that two hour break we have between the economic and security meeting next week? Do you…I don’t know want to get a cup of coffee somewhere or…?”

“Oh thank God, no one else is here.”

Ukraine’s tomogram suddenly appeared next to Lithuania’s, sitting on the bed. And like Lithuania, she looked exhausted.

“You’re five minutes late,” Poland said. “What’s up?”

“Oh hello Lithuania—wait, you don’t know?” Ukraine replied. “Someone threw a brick at a CEEC building in Kiev. During a meeting.”

Poland’s heart jumped, and he leapt to his feet. “The protests are turning violent? Who’s responsible? Why isn’t the military—”

“I’m the last person to say this but please calm down, Poland. It was only one man who did this. He’s been arrested—”

“Why didn’t I hear about this immediately?” Poland hissed, gripping the arm of his chair. “What if they turned and hurt some of my citi—”

Poland.” This time it came from Lithuania, who stood up, hands raised. “Calm down. Obviously, if no one told you about it, then it’s a minor incident.”

“True…” Poland let out a long breath and sat back down. He felt a small weight in his grip and turned his hand around. “I broke another chair.”

“It’s just the arm.”

“Yeah…” Poland put the broken piece on his desk and turned to the rest of them. “Okay.” He scanned the room.

“Speaking of violence,” Ukraine murmured, then looked at him. “Poland, off-hand do you know if your government responded to the Ukrainian embassy’s request?”

“Hmm?”

“It just that this is the third year in a row that there’s been violence at an Independence Day march in Poland,” Ukraine said. “We want reassurance that steps are being taken to ensure Ukrainians’ safety.”

“I know that the government gave the city extra funds for protection this year,” he said. “I’m not sure what the city of Warsaw did with the money—”

“Are you taking me seriously?” Ukraine said shortly. “There’s been broken bones this year, and the next someone could have life-threatening injuries. There’s enough prejudice against Ukrainians in Poland—”

“Aren’t those incidents pretty isolated though?”

“This is more than that. This can escalate if measures aren’t taken—”

“Okay, okay, I’ll check with the President to see if additional measures are being taken.”

“Good. I trust Sadowska.”

“Hey, like, where are Belarus and Lat—?”

The image of Latvia flickered into being. Unlike Ukraine or Lithuania who were on the bed, Latvia was sitting in mid-air.

“—via,” Poland finished.

“Sorry I’m so late.” The younger country had his long legs stretched out in front of him. His broad torso squished in the presumably small chair he sat in. “My President had a meeting with her cabinet.”

Poland waved his hands at the words. “That’s not a problem. What is a problem is Bela—”

“I’ve arrived.”

Latvia jumped out of his seat. Ukraine and Lithuania swiveled their heads this way and that trying to find the source of Belarus’ voice.

“Are you having trouble with the camera again, sister?” Ukraine offered.

“I know how to work the computer,” Belarus’ voice said. There was the sound of typing, and Belarus’ tomogram popped up next to Poland. This time, she looked like she was sitting on his desk. “We had to set up the generator in the building. The power went out.”

“That’s really weird,” Poland said.

Belarus shrugged. “Probably a minor hiccup. We have engineers looking at it.”

“Okay, okay.” Poland looked around the room. “So, since we’re all here, why don’t we start talking about that document—?”

Belarus scoffed.

Poland rolled his eyes. “I’m not happy about reading 1000 pages of that boring stuff either, but—”

“I think,” Ukraine began, looking down, “is that we all have…ahh, concerns to what’s inside the document, not so much its length.”

Poland opened his mouth slightly. “Wait, why? This would help all of us.”

“No one is arguing that this will help our economies. Certainly it will help with competitiveness but there are some downsides.”

Poland’s eyes widened. Lithuania was the last person he thought would object to it. Maybe that President of his was a little too influential.

“Our primary concern was our sovereignty.” Ukraine and Latvia curtly nodded at Lithuania’s words. “This could be good for us, but…all of them pegged to the złoty’s exchange rate?”

“I don’t get what the problem is.” Poland shook his head. He saved Lithuania and Latvia from the Euro, but he refrained from mentioning that. “My economy is doing fine—better than fine—and yours are good too. Why not peg them to mine?”

“What if something happens to your banks?” Ukraine said. “If you go down, our currency and economies will fall too.”’

“Didn’t you learn anything from the Euro?” Latvia said. Indignation surged through Poland at that lanky, ungrateful—


“Shshhshhh!” Lithuania said, waving his arms in front of Latvia’s tomogram. “Haha.” He smiled slightly. “What he’s trying to say is basically what Ukraine said. If you fall, we fall with you.”

“The economic conditions for an economic collapse are outlined somewhere around page 650—”

Belarus swiped through the tablet in her lap. “You can’t even remember what page it’s on?”

“It’s a long document and don’t you get sassy with me.” Of all the nations present, Belarus should know better than to be snappy with him like that.

Anyway,” Poland said, also looking through his website. “Okay, it’s on page 643, but it basically says that in the years leading up to the currency peg and after it, we will put more measures to separate the banks from the economy, to prevent what happened in 2008.”

“Regardless, our currencies are chained to yours if your economy goes down,” Lithuania said.

Now it was Poland’s turn to scoff. “The złoty won’t go down. At least, not in the near future. I’m healthier than I’ve ever been.”

“Good to hear that.”

“Despite that, there’s still a reason that this won’t pass through our Parliaments,” Ukraine said.

“Why?”

“We mentioned this earlier,” she said. “It does not respect our sovereignty.”

“How does it not respect your sovereignty? It’s only a currency peg.”

“I don’t think you realize what this implies.” Ukraine sighed. “Don’t you see? Our currencies would be fixed to yours instead of floating to how our own economies’ health.”

“Okay, I know I’m bad at economics but even I know that.”

And Latvia decided to open his mouth. “Pegging our currency to yours sends a message that you are the leader and we are unequal…What?”

The only noise in the room came from the humming of the tomogram projector. Lithuania and Ukraine stared down at their shoes. Belarus glared at Poland. Latvia looked blankly back at him, clearly not knowing what he said.

This had to be a joke. A really, really bad joke, but as Poland scanned the room and saw their embarrassed or defiant expressions, they were nothing but serious.

“You’re kidding,” Poland seethed. “I pour money into your economies, I help build your infrastructure—”

“We’re not ungrateful, if that’s what you’re implying,” Ukraine growled.

“You don’t understand what kind of message this sends across to the rest of the world,” Lithuania said calmly. “Taking into account your historical involvement in…well, all of us, it comes across as you…not only leading us but ruling over us.”

“Which is why people are protesting,” Ukraine finished. Latvia nodded.

Poland looked blankly at them. These protesters weren’t only in Lithuania. They were in the others too—Belarus, Latvia, and the biggest protests of all were in Ukraine. Some of them had camped out in Kyiv and Kharkov and Vilnius for weeks. More than anything, Poland wanted to shake them and scream at them. Look at how their countries were booming now. Look at how quickly they became one of the wealthiest countries in Europe.

“Polonization,” Latvia whispered.

“That’s stupid,” Poland stated.

Ukraine groaned and put her head in her hands.

“Poland, you can’t just say something’s stupid when someone presents a valid point,” Lithuania said.

“Cry about Polonization all you want,” Poland said, ignoring Lithuania’s words. He leaned back in his desk chair and looked at his nails. The nail on his middle finger had chipped after he had broken the armrest. “You know, if it weren’t for me, who knows where all of you would be after the EU broke up.”

“NATO still exists,” Lithuania snapped.

Poland raised an eyebrow. First Belarus, now Lithuania. What other surprises would today bring?

“NATO has nothing to do with economics. Your currencies would be so messed up if it weren’t for me. Hey, Lie—”

A mental block formed, and he stumbled over his words. His tongue went to the next alternative.

“—Lithuania, I told you when we first met that I’d help you out. Remember?” He smiled slightly.

Lithuania narrowed his eyes. “You also said me you’d help me as long as I did what you told me.”

Poland concentrated on the projector in the middle of the room.“…Well, yeah, but that was then.”

“Are you implying that if we don’t do as you say, you’ll let us fall under Russian influence?” Ukraine said.

“Where did that come from?!”

“Kaliningrad is an observing member of CEEC. Russia wouldn’t try anything while Kaliningrad is still there,” Latvia said.

Thank you, Latvia. Besides, you all know my history with Russia and I know yours. I don’t want any of you to fall under his control.”

Warsaw skipped a beat. Poland stared at all of them individually and knowingly—Latvia’s stunted growth for almost 300 years, Belarus nearly torn in half between nationalist and pro-Russian forces after the fall of Lukashenko, the dozens of scars crisscrossing Lithuania’s back, Ukraine’s struggle with her own identity for centuries.

Ukraine folded her arms. Lithuania sighed.

“We’re getting nowhere. We should let our politicians decide,” Belarus spoke up.

“They would never agree to it.” Ukraine stood up. “Don’t take this personally, Poland, but I’d never agree to be your lapdog again.”

Poland’s expression soured. Despite Poland’s own size and power, Ukraine was the largest country in the EEC and had the most delegates. Without her support…

Ukraine shouted something in Ukrainian to someone off-camera. “I’d like to discuss this more but I’m needed in Parliament,” she said in Polish. “You’ll hear from me before the meeting.”

“Sure thing.”

Ukraine’s tomogram disappeared, leaving Poland with the other three.

“Belarus,” Poland swiveled his chair around, “You had the złoty for around ten years. You know how stable it is.”

“That’s irrelevant. This measure is far too similar to the monetary union with Russia that Lukashenko proposed decades ago. My people are too attached to the taler anyway. Maybe my politicians will have other opinions but so far I don’t see any reason for this. It may help but all of us being pegged to yours…”

“Okay, okay, I get it, it’s not popular. Maybe your politicians will have a different idea or something. I don’t know.”

“I have nothing else to contribute to this conversation so I’m leaving. Good bye.”

“Yeah, bye.”

Belarus’ tomogram disappeared as well.

“You’re too influential in Belarusian affairs.”

Poland whirled on Latvia. “Didn’t Lithuania ever teach you to shut your mouth?”

“I-I don’t control him!” Lithuania sputtered.

“I’m almost as tall as him.” Latvia’s hand formed a fist. “Riga is the biggest city in the Baltics. I’m not the little kid that Russia used to push around anymore.”

“Right.” Latvia in puberty—it was only a matter of time. Still, it wouldn’t do good to upset Latvia too much. After all, the boy was a close friend with Estonia.

Latvia shook his head. “I don’t think the currency peg is for us. I need to speak to my higher ministers, but for now, put my vote as a probable No.”

He signed off as well.

“Your 1100th birthday is in twenty-seven years,” Lithuania said. “But you act as if you’re only twenty-seven.”

“Oh please, I know better than to piss off Latvia.” Poland scoffed. “His relationship with Estonia is needed. But damn, I had no idea that his puberty would be a wild ride.”

“If we’re being specific, you’re the cause of his growth spurt. All that aid you gave him after the fall of the EU…”

“I created this monster.”

Lithuania scowled. “That’s not very funny.”

“What? I wasn’t that bad when I was that age.”

Lithuania snorted. “You locked yourself in your room and wouldn’t come out for days when I told you that I first heard of Sigismund and Barbara’s marriage—may she rest in peace.”

“I was so mad that he didn’t tell me first! He told me everything.” Poland pouted, remembering the fit he threw when he discovered his king hid his wife away from Poland. “You didn’t tell me anything either!”

“It was a secret marriage. I couldn’t say a word.”

“You Lithuanians and your…” Poland couldn’t come up with a proper insult for him except, “I really grew to like Barbara though.”

“I miss her too.” Lithuania shook his head. “Po—”

Poland laughed. “Maybe Latvia got it from you. You ran away when Jagiełło forced you to convert.”

“Catholicism back then didn’t appreciate nature.” The corner of Lithuania’s lips curled in a small smile.

Poland walked over to the bed and sat down next to Lithuania’s tomogram. “Wow, that was a long time ago.”

“Back when we were actually happy.” Lithuania’s smile vanished.

“But I thought your national happiness level is on the—”

“You know what I mean. We were young and life didn’t seem as hard.”

“I know.” He concentrated on the wooden floorboards. He was Poland. He had plaques on almost every street in Warsaw dedicated to an event in the Uprising. He had a Baroque castle in his Old Town that was less than a century old. He had pieces of art and jewelry that were returned from Sweden or Russia or Germany after a hard-fought international court battle.

“Are you happy?” Poland asked, looking up.

“My citizens are satisfied with the direction their country is taking—”

“You’ve always been a bad liar, and I’m not talking about your citizens.” Poland reached forward to take Lithuania’s hand and forgot Lithuania was a tomogram.

“Do you like…” Poland found himself unable to meet Lithuania’s eyes and he turned away. “Never mind.”

“I better go,” Lithuania said suddenly, standing up. “I’m pretty sure my President wants to speak with me about next week’s meeting.”

Poland rolled his eyes. “Oh joy…her.”

I like her,” Lithuania said. “Besides, you have a meeting today, don’t you?”

“I don’t.”

“What are you doing today?”

Poland shrugged. “I don't know. Sadowska wants to vent about domestic politics.”

“Maybe you should find something to do. I know how you get when you’re bored.” Poland smiled. “Okay. I’ll be signing off now.”

“Alright.” Poland’s dry mouth made it hard to speak. “We’re still meeting up for coffee between the economic and security meetings right?”

“Ah, I forgot about that. Of course we can. Do you have a café in mind or do you want to find a place when I get there?”

“I’ll think of something.”

“Well, see you next week, Poland.”

“Yeah. See you.”

Lithuania vanished.

The projector was still green. Poland didn’t move to shut it off. Maybe Lithuania forgot to say something, or maybe his boss decided not to meet with him. The minutes passed and Poland drained his mug of tea. The birds chirped outside. Lithuania forgot nothing. Poland got up and turned off the projector.