Almost as much as Klaudia loved sleeping in a real bed, she loved running a comb through her hair. Of the three of them who remained, she was the proudest of her hair. Even a modern girl was allowed to think of her hair as her crowning glory.
“I feel like a baby discovering her body,” she said as they got ready for bed on the fifth night of their journey. “I just love feeling the shape of my arms and legs coming back, and feeling the soft little hairs growing on my legs and arms again. I’m becoming a woman again.”
“My favorite part is watching my bustline growing again,” Aranka said. “I no longer remember how big it was before, but I know it’s still not done coming back.”
“Do you think our busts will ever be as big as they were before?” Csilla asked. “Not that I ever cared how big mine was, but I don’t like the thought of my body being permanently deformed. At least we were pretty much done growing and had reached our full heights before last June. I don’t think any of us shrunk that way.”
Klaudia crossed her arms across her pajama top and tenderly cradled her recovering breasts. “I hope they go back to their former size. It’s a miracle they’re growing back as it is. A girl has to have some way to turn boys’ heads besides her brilliant mind.”
“You were a bit on the large side,” Aranka gently teased, reaching for her little hand mirror. “I bet Kálcsi was kept warm at night remembering them. Did he ever get to touch them? You can tell us now. It’s just us girls.”
“Of course not. We were only fourteen when we were deported. All we did was kiss and hold hands.” Klaudia squeezed her eyes shut. “Though part of me wishes we’d at least done something. My boyfriend should’ve been the first man to see me naked, not those thugs who didn’t deserve to look at us. Thank God he was never one of the guys who had to shave us every three weeks. That would’ve been beyond humiliating.”
“It would’ve been humiliating if any of our men or boys had been in that damned shaving line,” Csilla said. “I’m never touching a razor unless I develop some embarrassing female moustache or something. Not after how we were forcibly shaved so many times. Why do women in America shave their legs and underarms? They’re robbing themselves of part of what makes us women. Little girls don’t have body hair, but women do.”
“My mother taught me to trim my underarm hair so it wouldn’t get too sweaty and smell bad in the warmer months. I guess I can kind of see why American women would want to get rid of underarm hair.”
Aranka relaxed back onto the bed and curled her head onto her pillow. “I hope we have our full pubic hair back soon too. I felt like I’d really arrived as a true woman when I got it before. Even if I was the only one who saw and touched it, it was still like a special marking setting me apart from the little girls. I wish Irén were still here to have that special experience of starting to become a real woman.”
Csilla lay down in the middle of the bed as she always did, so she could have Klaudia and Aranka on either side of her and hold onto both of them even in sleep. As far as she was concerned, these were her younger sisters now, in a bond thicker than blood, a bond forged in fire. With no more families left, they had to cling together.
“Do we have any peppermints?” Klaudia asked, rubbing her stomach. “I don’t know what I ate that would’ve given me a stomach ache.”
“Do you think you have food poisoning?” Csilla asked. “Your portion tonight wasn’t excessive.”
“I hope not. We can’t delay on our journey. Maybe some of the boys have survived and are waiting for us, and they’ll leave if we don’t show up soon enough. Maybe my Kálcsi survived and will die of a broken heart if I’m not there.”
“You’d better believe we’ll take all the time we need if you’re not feeling well. Your health is more important than racing home just to see if some boyfriend survived. And if Kálmán did survive and he still likes you, he won’t turn heel after only a week or so.”
Klaudia buried her head in her hands. “I don’t know how this is possible, but I think I just wet myself.”
Csilla rubbed her back. “If you did, I’ll give you my pajama pants. It won’t hurt me to sleep half-naked for one night.”
Klaudia got out of bed and froze when she pulled her pajama pants down. There it was, the relentless red stain she hadn’t seen since last June. After having those drugs mixed into their tea, and then rendered too emaciated to menstruate anyway, this was even more of a miracle than regrowing her hair. She began laughing.
“Csicsi, Ari, look! I’m one hundred percent a real woman again! I can have babies someday!”
“Congratulations,” Aranka said. “I’m jealous of you. You’re the first of us to start menstruating again. I hope I’m next.”
Csilla hugged her, then opened the emergency supply bag she’d made up. “I organized some disposable sanitary napkins before we left, while you were busy organizing clothes and handbags. Will you be okay with safety pins holding them in place? I’m afraid I don’t have a belt.”
“Safety pins are fine by me. I always hated that damned belt anyway.” Klaudia sat next to Csilla as she was fastening a napkin to a pair of female drawers. “I’m glad you’re my sister now.”
Csilla kissed her on the cheek. “I love you too.”