Hey All! I have been dying to share my piece for the Reckless Anthology and I am so happy to be able to give you all a pre-view!
This piece is completely different from anything I’ve written before.
I hope that you all enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed writing it.
“Day one hundred and thirty six,” I mumble to myself as I gingerly cross from the bedroom into the bathroom. That is the number of days I have been in remission since beginning my new treatment plan with my doctors.
It has been a long road, but somehow—through much research, tears and groveling to the big guy upstairs—I have finally found a way to keep my condition in check. Or, at least, somewhat in check.
Remission for me dO’t mean that I didn’t still get the occasional lump here and there, but for the most part I have gotten my HS in control. Who would have thought?
My secret? Stress free living and a new diet regimen that seems to be keeping whatever triggers that had plagued me for years at bay. It’s a tough route to take and many HS sufferers don’t even consider doing what I do, but I have made the choice to try this plan. So far, it’s been beneficial, although I am so dying for a slice of pizza or my favorite… Vanilla bean ice cream.
The change of my diet has been the roughest on me. I have always been a very picky eater, but nonetheless, I am a foodie through and through. There is nothing like a good bacon cheeseburger or the right Caribbean style bake macaroni and cheese. All my absolute favs, but I can’t have any of it.
Why? Because of fucking HS.
Many people aren’t even familiar with the disease and those who suffer from it tend to be a bit embarrassed by it. I happen to be one of those people. Nothing is more embarrassing than having a huge abscess like golf ball between your legs or under your arm. Or when it’s so bad that you can’t even close your legs and walk.
How the hell do you explain it to people? I can’t really say, ‘Oh, I’m walking like this because there is a huge baseball sized lump in between my legs, right next to my lady bits.’ Yeah, right!
I don’t bother explaining anymore. I just ignore the stares when I get a flare up and silently curse them out because they are all normal and have never dealt with such a debilitating disease that shows no signs of ever being cured. No, I am not going to explain any of it to anyone anymore.
I even stopped dating a few years ago. Really, what the hell is the point? What man would want to deal with the fact that you can’t always have sex and that you are in pain all the time? That’s way too much to ask of anyone. So, I have decided to just remain single.
It’s not so bad, really. I mean, it would be nice to have someone that understands all that I am going through while fighting this disease. But after my ex broke up with me and specifically told me that he just couldn’t handle my being sick all the time, I figured I’d better cut my loses and fit myself for a chastity belt made of reinforced steel.
As I turn on the water in the bathroom, I sigh as I think back to how much Jason had hurt me. We’d only been going together for a few months, nothing too serious really so I wasn’t upset about it ending. It was the reasons behind the break up that messed me up. It still affects me till this day if I am to be very honest with myself.
But in the end, I realize now that he had done me a favor and made me see how selfish it is to take someone else down this journey through HS with me. It’s my disease, my broken body and I have to deal with it on my own.
Shortly after starting my new regimen, I quit my job. I loved being an accountant for one of the biggest banks in New York, but the stress of the job proves to be too much on my body. Often times, I would get three or four HS flare ups, making just getting out of the bed difficult. So, despite the fact that I had no means of making money doing anything else, I resigned.
Three months later, I began working from home as a virtual assistant for a few small businesses in the Brooklyn – Bedford Stuyvesant area. It isn’t as fast pace and hectic as my last job, but it pays the bills and that’s all I can ask for.
Stepping out of the shower, I make my way back to my bedroom, opening the top draw to my dresser and pull out my daytime pajama set. I chuckle as I throw it on, since it makes absolutely no sense to have two different levels of pajamas. But since I rarely leave the apartment, I feel the need to differentiate between the PJs I wear during the day while I worked and the ones I wear at night to go to bed. It’s silly, I know, but it works for me and that’s all that matters.
Strolling to the kitchen, I hit the button on the coffee machine and go through the process of starting up my computer. I have a lot of work ahead of me today and only eight hours to get it done. Two of the companies I work with have recently began increasing their revenues, which in turn mean more work for me, organizing all their documents and spreadsheets.
Once the computer is turned on, I head back to the retrieve my coffee as there is absolutely no way I can start my day without it—even if it’s the decaffeinated stuff. Freaking HS took that away from me too. Still, I pretend it’s the good stuff and need it just as much as I would the real deal.
Pouring the dark liquid into my ‘Hello Kitty’ cup, I mentally do a rundown of my to-do list, reorganizing in my mind what takes priority. Placing the glass coffee decanter back, I reach for the refrigerator to retrieve some vanilla soy milk. Looking on the both the top shelf and the side compartments of the door, I groan when I realize that I have run out.
Closing the refrigerator door, I eye the dark liquid in my cup suspiciously. I’d never been one to drink black coffee, but I wonder if my dislike for the taste will win over having to go to the grocery store.
I bring the cup closer to my face, smelling it and then blowing on it gently, all the while mentally preparing myself.
Just pretend it’s not black, I tell myself just as I bring the mug to my lips and tip it over only to immediately twirl around and spit it back up into the sink.
“Shit,” I grumble as I place the mug down on the kitchen island and make my way back to my bedroom.
Looks like I have to head to the store first before beginning my work day. Trust me, my employers will thank me for it. There is nothing worse than me without my morning Joe crunching numbers in excel.
The tension in the air intensifies as Petrov advances to the center of the room. His posture is straight, his steel blue eyes void of all emotion and his moves are purposeful.
Straightaway, Vladimir and his men are on high alert, standing around the dimly lit room awaiting to hear the purpose of this impromptu meeting. Each knows that Petrov is not a man to request your presence without cause, as speaking to anyone below the rank of Vladimir is beneath him and for the others to be called in meant the boss is not happy.
I look around the room, and take in the selected few before us. The air of the room is charged in anticipation and wariness. I know something isn’t right. From the second I was called in this morning, my stomach has been churning.
On the rare occasions Petrov has called a meeting, it has never ended well—almost always ending in bloodshed. So it isn’t a matter of what he has to say tonight. No, it’s a matter of who would die and why. But that isn’t what bothers me as I stand to the right of Petrov, and Alexandrov—aka Alexander, his brother, to his left.
I’ve spent the last ten years working for The Petrov Crime Family, one of the most ruthless Russian organizations in New York. I’d started as a Byki, a bodyguard under the Vor, Vladimir, a man as heartless as a stone. This is where Petrov started most men. Only with Vladimir’s seal of approval did you advance.
Swarm too much and you were killed. Seem too eager and you were also killed. He only picks the best of the best and after working under him for three years, I’d been advanced to a contractor. Lethal, brutal and the best. This earned me favor with Vladimir and then finally with Petrov.
Faithfully, I served Petrov until my talents and skills positioned me to where I am today—the place I’d set my sights on from the time I’d entered the family. As Petrov’s Councilor or the Sovietnik as the Russians calls it, I am his right hand man.
Standing beside Petrov as his second in command, despite the fact that I am not a full blown Russian—a transgression Alexander seems to hold against me at every cause—I am not in the position where a meeting is called without my knowledge. The fact that I too am left in the dark does not sit well with me, but of course this is of no concern to Petrov. And so, I keep my mouth shut and my eyes and ears open.
“Do you know why I have called this meeting?” Petrov asks once he’s situated behind his desk.
The room grows eerie quiet as all eyes are trained on the boss. Despite the fact that each one of us know the outcome of this meeting, not one of the men show a single sign of fear. They know better. Fear has no place in the presence of Petrov. He both detests it and thrives on it.
Petrov eyes each man penetratingly before continuing, “I received a phone call last night from my contact within the authorities. I am sure you all remember Andrei. It seems the FBI has been investigating our shipments and he has reason to believe that one of my men may be an informant.”
Petrov kept his voice devoid of emotion and calm even though I know he is anything but. If there is any sin one is capable of committing against the brotherhood that Petrov despises it would be a rat and I can’t help but swallow down the rise of panic in my chest.
I can’t deny that today’s meeting should have me worried, but I have done everything possible to remain fully infiltrated within the family. I’ve done every task asked of me, without question or hesitation. No, Petrov couldn’t have known, but that didn’t stop the bead of sweat from falling from my brow.
If Petrov has gotten wind that an informant has infiltrated the brotherhood then my time here is nearing an end and I’m not sure how I feel about this. It’s true that my mission is to get as much information as I can about the brotherhood so that the FBI can build a strong case against us, but therein lies the problem. Somewhere along the way I have stopped referring to the brotherhood as them and more as us. The lines that divide good and evil are so blurred when you are made to do the thing I’ve been ordered to do.
I have killed, mercilessly. I’ve tortured the enemies of the brotherhood with no remorse and if I were to be completely truthful, I’d do it again. For them. For us.
“Lucan.” He calls my name as he turns his head to face me. Raising my sweat covered brow only slightly as my heart pounds violently against my chest, I regard him as well. “Has the brotherhood not treated you well?” he asks as he leans forward in his chair and claps his hands together on the desk.
I give him a curt nod, “Of course, Petrov. The brotherhood is my life.” My answer is sure, strong, but not defensive just as it should be. It is also true, but only partially since I am not completely sure where my loyalty lies.
I have trained for this mission for well over five years before infiltrating. I know all that there is to know about the Petrov Bratva and most importantly, I am the best liar in the bureau. Trained to pass any lie detector test both manually and electronically without worry, so I know he suspects nothing from my answer.
He nods his head and regards his brother next, “And you Alexandrov, have I not been well to you?”
Alexander jerks his head in confusion, turning to face his only brother before answering, “Of course, brother.”
Petrov turns to face Vladimir next and I can see a silent exchange between the two men. Most would miss it, but not me.
You can tell a lot about a person just by looking into their eyes. Vladimir’s show acceptance and Petrov, understanding. Though I am not sure what their exchange is in regards to, I know it is not him who will fall before Petrov today.
Still, I force myself to remain stoical even though their exemption of me in this manner would be considered a slap in the face. I am the second in command and therefore should be made aware of what is going on.
Alexander is the next to speak, “Brother, what is all this? Are you going to hold us here all day while you ogle your men?” His annoyance is clear in his voice and his eyes, hold something I can’t quite place. Fear? Maybe…
I don’t understand it. I know for sure Alexander isn’t with the bureau, but his demeanor is questionable.
“All in good time, my brother.”
Petrov stands to his feet and rounds the desk. His movements are as sure as they always are when he stands in front of his safe, enters a code and pulls out his gun. I have seen that gun many times and still it puts me on edge each time he removes it from his safe.
The spravedlivost, justice. It’s what Petrov calls the steal in his hands—the gun a gift from his father before passing the Bratva over to him. Many of men have stared into the barrel of the stainless, prized weapon, begging for mercy. But mercy has no place in the brotherhood. Petrov doesn’t issue second chances and absolution to those he deems the enemy and anyone who crosses the brother is in fact an enemy.
“The brotherhood takes second place to nothing. I am the beginning and the end for all those who fall under my rule. You have no mother, no father, no sister—”
The sound of justice going off the second he turns around cuts him off and much to everyone’s surprise Alexander stumbles to the ground, blood pouring from his chest.
“And, no brother,” he finishes before turning swiftly and replacing the gun in the safe. “Lucan, be sure that his replacement is trust worthy, yeah?” is all he says before he exits the room.
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