I slumped my head down on the desk, feeling the stress of everything falling on my shoulders. It’s been a week since Clark stayed in Italy and I was more than ready to go back and bring him here. I’ve been sending him messages every minute of every day, calling his phone and even borrowing Valery and Oleg’s phone to reach him but he wasn’t answering. Damn, I even went online and searched if he had any social accounts but unfortunately, he wasn’t interested in making one.
I could feel Maxim’s judging look but I kept my head on the table, moaning in distress.
“You’re perfectly healthy,” Maxim started as I heard papers being flipped, “what in the world are you still here?”
He was reviewing one of his patient’s medical report. I became attached to Valery’s parents since I began visiting Georgy in their clinic. Isaac and Raul were always beside me. They refused to leave me alone. They’re always with me wherever I go and even though it was irritating the hell out of me, I couldn’t do anything. Isaac told me they have to triple their security because some suspicious activities were happening with the Maslow’s. I wasn’t sure what it was and I was too concerned about Clark that I didn’t even care about the Maslow’s at this point.
I lifted my head and pouted at Maxim. Ever since I came here in their clinic, I’ve known him better than my own father. Maxim was stoic, never even smiling and he was strict not only to his children but to his patients as well. It was evident that he had worked in the mob before. His actions that lacked empathy, brushing away that people were dying in his clinic because of severe wounds and blood loss. He and his wife, Alexandra, they’re so used in this kind of life that it scared and fascinated me at the same time. I couldn’t help but wonder if in the future, I would be like them as well.
“I don’t want to go home,” I mumbled.
Being alone makes me think about Clark and it gives me stupid ideas in how to bring him back. It was annoying me but I couldn’t stop worrying.
I stared at my phone. I tried calling Paige as well but he wasn’t answering. To think that even him would ignore my calls hurt me.
Looking back at Maxim, I asked, “do you know Clark’s fathers?”
Valery told me before that her parents once worked with Clark’s fathers. That meant Maxim and Alexandra personally knew them.
Maxim put down the papers he was holding to give me a stern look.
“What kind of people are they?”
Isaac already told me what kind of people Clark’s parents were but I wanted to hear Maxim’s opinion about them.
“Insane,” Maxim shortly answered before standing up to walk to the cabinet.
He pulled a drawer and browsed through the folders neatly arranged inside. The door opened and Alexandra came in, a huge grin plastered on her face.
“Good thing you’re still here, Drew!” she exclaimed.
She were holding a paper bag and behind her was Valery who was grinning from ear to ear as well. They entered Maxim’s office but he wasn’t giving them any attention as he was busy reading the files in his hands.
“We bought food!” Alexandra announced, “it’s good for treating a broken heart, Drew!” she teased, winking at me.
I grunted. Valery nudged her mother’s arm and she just pouted at her daughter.
“What’s wrong? It’s true, right, dear?” Alexandra said, turning to Maxim to back her up.
“I don’t know. I was never broken hearted,” he retorted with a monotone voice.
Alexandra smirked at her husband.
“That you didn’t.”
Valery made a face.
“Please stop flirting in front of your daughter and her bff, thank you.”
Alexandra giggled. She pulled a chair and began putting Maxim’s files on the side of his table to make space for the food. By the time Maxim returned to his table, he sighed.
“I’m still working,” he said to Alexandra.
“No, we’re going to eat lunch. Now sit down and eat, dear.”
Maxim didn’t have second thoughts in doing what his wife had told him. He took his doctor’s coat off and sat beside Alexandra. She happily put a plate of salad and chicken strips in front of her husband and I watched how sweet they were with each other.
Valery saw the jealously in my eyes.
“Come on, Drew. It’s not the end of the world. Besides, Clark didn’t break up with you. He’s just…busy with whatever he’s doing,” she said, forcing a grin at me, “I bought you cake, you like sweets, don’t you?”
“I think I’ll prefer coffee but thanks,” I said.
We ate lunch. Valery was doing her best to cheer me up and I was more than glad that she’s beside me, comforting me. I’m so blessed that I have a best friend like her.
“So, I heard you’re curious about Clark’s parents,” Alexandra said.
She was finished eating her lunch and was now wiping her lips.
“How did you -- ?”
“Isaac told me Clark’s father was in Italy. They’re both helping Paige to recover from his trauma.”
I was surprised that even Alexandra knew Paige. Were they all affiliated with one another?
“They probably already knew where Clark is,” Maxim added, “you know how they are.”
Alexandra scoffed, looking straight into my eyes with a smirk.
“You’re going to have a hard time impressing your boyfriend’s parents, Drew.”
I got out of the Boikov clinic. What Alexandra told me during lunch stayed in my head. They’re all telling me how scary Clark’s parents were and now it’s giving me anxiety. I wanted to meet them but at the same time, I didn’t want to.
No. I have to stop being a coward and a crybaby. If I’m going to be the next leader of the Orlov group, I needed to be strong.
I saw Isaac waiting by the car. He was leaning on the hood, busy with his phone. When he saw me walking towards him, he stood up straight.
“Are we leaving?”
I climbed the vehicle and sat on the back seat. Raul was sleeping inside and he immediately woke up when Isaac slapped him on the forehead.
Clark’s the only person who could make me strong but now that he’s not here, what should I do?
“Where are we going now?” Isaac asked while backing out of the driveway.
I thought for a second.
“Home. I want to talk to my father.”
“What did you just say?”
I was lucky dad was still at home. I called Nikita while we were going back and she said dad had an appointment with one of his friends in the mob. Figuring that I had to engage myself with family matters, the only way I could do that was to be with dad. There’s no point in running away from my responsibilities anymore. One more year and I’m going to graduate and after that, I had to leave everything behind. My normal life, hanging out in coffee shops with Valery, doing photography and collecting portfolio’s, I couldn’t do that anymore.
I know I said I wanted to live life to the fullest until I join the Orlov but I wanted to take a glimpse of how our family operates. Clark showed me a lot but I wanted to see how my father deals with the Mafia.
“I said I want to come with you,” I repeated.
I couldn’t read dad’s expression. Was he happy or disappointed or what? I don’t know.
All of a sudden, he pushed his chair back and stood up.
“What’s gotten into you? You hate going with me when I’m meeting people,” dad said.
I wanted to tell him it’s all because of Clark. I just wanted to distract myself because I’m going crazy.
And I wanted to be strong for him.
I don’t want to become his weakness.
“I learned a lot when I went to Italy,” I replied, smiling sadly at my father, “this is our life. I don’t have a choice but to accept it, right?”
For the first time in my life, I saw my father’s face lit up. He walked towards me and hugged me tight.
“I’m so glad you’re finally accepting it, Drew. And yes, this is our life and this is who you’re meant to be,” dad said while rubbing my back, “I was hesitant at first but now that you’re finally understanding what we are, I know it’s not too late to teach you about our family business.”
My heart tightened. Dad never hugged me for anything else but business. He was never supportive of me in what I wanted to do.
But I couldn’t do anything. Whatever I do, I would end up being the leader of the Orlov group.
Because I’m Timofei Orlov’s only son.
And it’s in my blood to be a part of the Mafia.
“This is Ygor, he’s one of my personal bodyguards,” dad introduced the man in front of me.
I remember him. He was the man who told me about the war of the heirs back when an assassination happened in my school. Ygor was working closely for my father as his bodyguard that’s why I haven’t seen him after that. Dad told me Ygor and his men went with him in Italy.
I asked myself if Ygor was Clark’s boss. He looked like he was the leader of dad’s personal bodyguards. But everyone working in the Orlov group acted as if Clark was their leader, often calling him boss when he’s around.
Ygor nodded his head at me.
“Hello,” I awkwardly greeted.
He opened the door in the back and dad went first before I followed him. The door closed and one of Ygor’s men sat on the drivers seat while he was beside him.
“Where are we going?” I asked dad.
“Do you know Savva?” he asked and when I shook my head, he went on and explained to me who Savva was. “He’s one of our closest allies for the longest times. Savva and I are great friends and we both started the same time and worked for the same boss before we made it big. He’s in charge of Calchester and Onyx.”
Calchester, where our school was located. I didn’t know it was someone’s territory but then again, I don’t know much.
“Why are you meeting him?” I inquired.
“To share our profits. One way of making your bond strong to other families is to offer them resources. As long as the both of you benefits from one another, nothing can go wrong. Of course unless, something else happened,” dad replied. “Money is very important in this business, son,” he continued, “if you have money, you can do anything.”
I tried not to roll my eyes from what he said.
“There’s a lot of things you need to learn in handling the family business but we have a lot of time. I assume you’re not going to school anymore.”
Dad narrowed his eyes at me but I shook my head at him.
“No, I still want to finish school.”
“Drew,” he exasperatedly called my name, “I told you a hundred times. You don’t need to finish your studies.”
I clenched my hands.
“I know. I just want to finish it. After that, I’ll officially join the group.”
He stared at me for a full minute before sighing out loud.
“You know that this life is dangerous as well, don’t you?”
I pursed my lips, nodding.
“Yes, I know. That’s why you hired Clark.”
“He’s done a great job of convincing you to change your mind,” dad said, “I know it’s worth hiring someone like him.”
I turned to dad.
“How did you hire him? He’s been sought after by a lot of people. How much did you pay him?”
We’re not a small group but there’s were other strong families that could hire Clark to work for them so why did he choose the Orlov? I remember Clark saying dad paid a lot of money but how much?
I could feel Ygor listening to our conversation but I ignored him.
“Everything is about status, Drew,” dad answered, a smirk starting to appear on his face and it’s creeping me out, “you want the strongest families and people working for you and if you have them by your side, others will fear you. Fear is how you make people respect you. I want the strongest people working for us and I’ll do anything to get them even if I pay a lot in exchange of their services.”
“So how much did you pay him?” I urged.
Dad kept his eyes straight, never answering my question.
We arrived in Calchester, far away from the residential part of it. The driver honked and the huge gate painted in black opened for us. He drove the car and inside was a field with a storage house placed in the middle of it. There were men dressed in casual clothes roaming around the ground, securing the place. I’m convinced everyone here was equipped with weapons hidden away.
The driver parked the car on the parking lot and two men approached us to open the door. Dad got out first and I followed next. The air was cold and I quickly pulled my jacket close to my body. From afar, I saw another storage house behind the ones I saw when we entered the place. There were people working there, moving what seemed like sacks of something and they were stacking it inside the storage house.
The men guided us inside the building. When we entered, I smelled a strong scent of ammonia. My nose scrunched from the pungent smell but nobody else seemed to be affected by it. Walking through the storage place that looked a lot like a factory, I already knew what this place was.
We climbed up the steel staircase leading to the second floor where the office was. A man was guarding the door and seeing us arriving, he opened it to let us enter.
“Timo!” a gruff voice called out.
“Savva, it’s good to see you, friend,” dad greeted.
Savva was a huge man, wearing a suit with an opened blazer. He had gold jewelries around his neck and fingers. His eyes were dark with deep bags under it, his nose was wide, his lips were huge and he had a neatly trimmed beard.
“Sorry for inviting you here, a sudden delivery arrived,” Savva said, giving dad a quick hug.
He then looked at me and I forced a smile.
“Hi,” I squeaked.
“Let me introduce you, this is my son, Drew,” dad said, pulling me closer to them. “I’m showing him how things work.”
Savva smiled at me.
“Nice to meet you, young man. I’m Savva.”
“N-nice to meet you too, I’m Drew Orlov.”
Savva clasped his hands together and showed dad the way to his table.
“Let’s talk business now, shall we?” he beckoned.
Dad and I sat across from each other in front of Savva’s table. He sat behind it, leaning against the swivel chair.
“I heard you got the Italians, Timo,” Savva said, smiling smugly at dad, “tell me how you did it.”
Dad proudly smirked at him.
“My son did.”
Savva eyed me and I could see him observing me. I’m sure he’s thinking I’m nothing like them, just an ordinary high school kid who happened to have a father who’s working in the Mafia.
“How’d you do it, Drew? Everyone know how the Italians are hard to close a deal with,” he said.
The only reason why Hiro Blaise agreed to work with us was because of Clark. Damn, I’m remembering Clark again and it brought a scowl on my face. I quickly erased him in my head to answer Savva’s question.
“Um, I had to pass a test to be able to get Hiro’s trust.”
Savva’s eyes lit up the moment I mentioned Hiro’s name. A man behind him who looked like his secretary began putting papers on his table.
“Hiro Blaise, huh? Not a lot of people have seen that kid in person. You’re lucky to be their partners,” Savva commented.
Dad pursed his lips. He stayed quiet since he knew how Hiro rejected his offer.
“It is,” I shortly agreed.
Savva then turned to dad and said, “you have to be careful, Timo. Now that you’re partners with the Blaise, our friends will definitely do something to take you down.”
I gulped from he said. It sounded threatening rather than warning him of danger.
“There’s nothing to be worried about, Savva,” dad said.
The two of them exchanged papers, signing it first before looking back at each other.
“I hired the best people in the business to protect us. Nothing can take us down now.”
I saw the tint of irritation reflecting on Savva’s eyes but he quickly masked it away with a fake smile.
“Of course. You’re one step away from being the Pakhan,” he said, pulling the paper towards him while his secretary pulled out a case from under the table.
Dad stood up, buttoning his suit and stretching his arm to shake Savva’s hand.
“I’ll be expecting full support from you, friend,” he said, squeezing Savva’s hand.
He smirked, shaking dad’s hand.
“You can count on me,” Savva said.
After exchanging suit cases, we were now led out of the room. Before I stepped out, I caught Savva looking at me, smiling.
“See you again, Drew,” he said waving a hand.
I crookedly smiled at him and nodded.
Everything went back to normal as the week starts again. Like always, Monday was a busy day. I woke up early to go to school. I received a message yesterday from Alyona, telling me to go and meet her because she had something to tell me. I pushed her to tell me what it was but Alyona said it was too important to say it in the phone.
Isaac and Raul brought me to school. I didn’t get to eat breakfast because I was worried about what Alyona was going to say to me. I hope it’s not bad news. I don’t think my heart could take it anymore.
I got out of the car and was about to walk away when I suddenly remembered something. I knocked on the window and waited for it to roll down to reveal Isaac sitting on the drivers seat.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“I need to go to the Boikov clinic after classes,” I said.
It became a habit for me to go and visit him after classes or whenever I’m not doing anything, making sure he’s alright after what happened to him.
“Of course,” Isaac said, “we’ll pick you up after your last class.”
I entered the school premises. There were only a few students lurking in the corridor. It’s too early for classes but I need to catch up to a lot of lessons I missed. I went to the library and as expected, the old librarian was there, cleaning up the place. She saw me enter and smiled warmly at me.
I smiled back at her and she resumed what she was doing. I walked to my spot, pulled out my notebooks and books to study before class starts. I missed a lot and I may need to talk to the teachers to give me extra homework and projects so I wouldn’t fail.
While I was in the middle of studying, my phone vibrated. Thinking that it was Clark, I panicked to get it out of my bag. I almost took out all my things because I couldn’t find it and when I did, I snatched it out only to be disappointed when it was from Alyona.
I answered the phone with a pout.
“Where are you, Drew?!” she asked.
“I’m in the library…why?”
“I just arrived! You have to come to the club room, now!”
I didn’t get the chance to ask her why she wanted to see me so bad since she already hung up the phone. With a heavy heart and long sigh, I put my things back in my bag and got out of the library. I waved a goodbye at the librarian who only smiled at me.
The photography room was in the second floor. Good thing my first class was there. I put the things I wouldn’t need in my locker before going up.
I knocked on the door after arriving and it swung open, revealing an excited Alyona.
“Oh my god! Come here, come here, come here!”
She pulled me inside the club room. No one was inside but her. It was messy, different photos pasted covered the four walls of the room.
“What is it?” I asked, my heart beating fast from whatever she was going to say to me.
Alyona gave me an enveloped. It was addressed to the school under Alyona’s name as the president of the photography club.
I took out the content of the envelope and there was a certificate inside.
Over-all Winner of the 28th ViewFrame International Contest
My eyes widened and my fingers trembled as I read my name printed out on the certificate, over and over again.
“Yes!” Alyona screamed, hugging me, “I’m so proud of you, Drew! I know you’re gonna win! I just knew it!”
Alyona pushed me back, still holding my shoulders while playfully glaring at me.
“What do you mean why you?! You’re talented! You have the eye and I’m sure the judges of ViewFrame saw it too!”
Then that means…I’m going to New York to attend the exhibition?
Did I finally do something right in my life? Winning something as prestigious as this? Ever since I picked up the camera my grandma gave to me as her last parting gift, I couldn’t stop using it.
“I really am the winner? I just…won the contest?”
“You have to go!” Alyona said, shaking my shoulders, “I’m sure this will open a lot of opportunities for you as a photographer!”
I furrowed my brows and sadly smiled at Alyona.
“Yes, you’re right.”