Maxim stood beside me, hands inside his coat pockets while staring at Georgy lying on the bed behind the window. The cords attached in him lessened as days goes by and I was glad that he’s quickly recuperating from what happened to him.
“It’s going to be hard for him to return back to normal,” Maxim commented.
My frown deepened.
“I know,” I mumbled, “this might not be for the better but I don’t know what else to do but help him.”
Maxim glanced at me and asked, “aren’t you angry with Clark? This is because of him.”
I shook my head.
“There’s no way I can get angry with him.”
He scoffed from my answer.
“I’ve heard that before,” Maxim said. “Anyway, Clark paid us to make your friend better. It’ll take a while but we’ll do our best. Alexandra will handle the rehabilitation.”
I faced him and nodded.
“Thank you for everything you’ve done for Georgy. I’m forever indebted to you.”
Maxim made a face.
“Please don’t. The last time someone said that, he became the Pakhan,” he said.
What he said perked my curiosity. The Pakhan? There was only one who successfully got that position and it was Mikhail.
“What do you mean?”
Maxim walked away but I followed him to hear his answer.
“Long time ago, a little boy said the same things to me because I helped him when he was in the brink of giving up,” he said.
Opening the door to his office, we both entered. Maxim sat on his chair and leaned on it while reminiscing the past. He had a wistful smile on his face.
“Mikhail’s family died because of the Mafia.”
My heart skipped a beat. I knew nothing about the previous Pakhan and how he became the leader of the unified Russian Mafia. From what my father told me before, he was a terrifying man, capable of killing anyone without remorse. To lead the biggest mob group of the world, I’m sure he was scary as hell. Maybe even scarier than the devil in the flesh.
“You know how the Mafia works, right?” Maxim asked, eyeing me, “you get your position from your father or mother and you give it to your son or daughter. It’s a family business and it’s been like that for countless of generations but Mikhail, he didn’t come from those families. He was just an ordinary kid who lived an ordinary life with his parents and beloved brother.”
I listened closely to Maxim telling the Pakhan’s tale. Not even my dad knew this.
“It was Viktor’s greatest mistake to take everything away from Mikhail.”
“W-what did Mikhail do?”
Maxim smirked at me.
“He took Viktor’s everything, no, more than what he had,” he smugly answered, “hell of a kid, Mikhail.”
“Why…why did he die?” I asked, mostly to myself.
Recalling how his death became a sensation, not only here in Russia but the whole world as well. If he was powerful and feared by everyone, why did someone like him die? Does it mean that even though he was all that, there was still someone else who’s more powerful than him?
Thinking that scared me. No matter how good you are, there’s always someone out there going to be better than you.
Maxim looked straight into my eyes and the gaze he was giving me made me feel uncomfortable.
“Is he really dead?”
My jaw dropped and Maxim just grinned at me. We heard the bell rang and he stood up to see who called but I remained standing in his office, extremely baffled from what he just said.
Valery sat in front of me, her jaw hanging from pure shock.
“What do you mean you’re not going to accept the prize?!” she asked, ready to slap realization to my face, “this is once in a life time opportunity, you know!”
I drank my coffee to calm myself but it might do the opposite thing. Valery and I decided to hang out at Nomer’s Diner before going back home. She’s been busy with her own portfolio and I envy her so much because she’s going to chase her dream to become a photographer. I’m happy for her as her best friend and I wanted nothing but the best but at the same time, to think that I wouldn’t have the chance to follow my own dreams sucked big time.
“My dad won’t let me go to New York, Val,” I said, rubbing the rim of the cup with my thumbs, “there’s just no way.”
Valery rolled her eyes.
“That’s why he hired you bodyguards, right?! I know you’re going to become the leader of the Orlov group, whatever, I’m not into that but at least do something for yourself before you leave everything,” she said, taking my hand and squeezing it, “winning something like this is amazing, Drew. Alyona and I can see your talent and I’m sure the judges saw it too. “
Valery said the same thing Alyona did but it wasn’t convincing me. She did have a point though. I always tell myself that I wanted to do everything before I leave it to fulfill my role as the leader of the Orlov group.
Maybe this was the last chance given to me to become normal. I’m well aware that after this exhibition, I’d return back to normal. Training, attending meetings, learning about the Mafia, more training, I don’t want to have regrets.
“Drew, look at me,” Valery demanded and I did, “I’m so proud that you won this competition. I’ve known you for a long time and this is what you want. To let the world see your photos, how you see it through the viewfinder and this competition made it possible. Your photos will be hanged and hundreds of people will see and it’s one of the greatest accomplishment of a photographer.”
What Valery said struck an arrow in my heart. I was close to crying because of how supportive she was. I was so confused, shackled by my duties as an Orlov that I couldn’t see the right path for my life.
“Do you really think…this is the right choice, Valery?” I asked, fighting back the tears that’s about to come out.
She brightly smiled at me.
“Of course! I’m your best friend!”
It was already dark outside when Valery and I finished our coffee and conversation. The whole time she was convincing me to go to New York and forget who I am just for a week. I agreed with everything she said.
After we drop Valery at her house, Isaac drove back to bring me home. Raul was sitting beside him and they were talking something about security matters but I wasn’t listening.
Holding my phone, I sent Clark a text message. I haven’t stopped calling and messaging him after I got back to Russia but not a single reply was sent back. It’s breaking my heart but I had to hold on to his words.
He’s coming back to me, I know that.
I don’t know if you’re even reading this.
I won the photography competition and they’re inviting me to New York to attend the exhibit.
I’m going. I’ll convince my dad to let me go.
And after this, I’ll dedicate myself to becoming the leader of the Orlov.
I miss you so much.
I hope you’re missing me too.
I hid my phone back in my bag and sighed out loud. Isaac noticed my distress.
“What’s wrong, boss?”
I forced myself to smile at Isaac who was looking at me through the rear mirror.
“Nothing. I’m fine.”
Isaac parked the car in its usual spot. I got out, dragging my bag behind me. I could hear Raul yawning.
Turning at the two of them, I smiled weakly.
“Good night. See you tomorrow.”
Raul grinned and wave a hand at me.
“Good night, little boss!” he cheerfully bid goodbye and it brought a little smile at my face.
I walked to get inside the house but Isaac caught my arm to stop me. I faced him with a raised brow.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Tell me what’s bothering you, boss.”
I blinked at him. I wasn’t expecting Isaac to ask a personal thing.
“Uh, nothing’s wrong,” I said.
“You can’t hide the truth from me. It may be hard to believe but you’re really easy to understand,” he said, sarcastically teasing me and I ended up smiling.
“Sorry, it’s just,” I rubbed my head and sighed out loud, “I want to go to New York.”
Isaac was more than surprised with my revelation.
“I won the photo competition,” I said, looking straight into his eyes to see what his reaction would be, “I want to go to New York.”
He pursed his lips and I was expecting he would say a bunch of stuff about how it’s dangerous to go to New York now that danger’s high for Mafia heirs. But instead of berating me and telling me who I am, Isaac smiled.
“I thought you were going to come and get the boss but you chose to follow what you want.”
I smiled back.
“I don’t know. Maybe this is the last time I can follow it.”
I woke up early in the morning to have a talk with my dad. I took a long, warm bath, dressed up, fixed my things and got out of my room before dad could leave. I saw mom getting out of her room and she was wearing an expensive-looking dress with matching jewelries and I briefly wondered where she was going, all dressed up like that.
Walking towards her, she saw me and the poker expression on her face didn’t change.
“Aren’t you up early?” mom asked.
Her bodyguard was standing beside her, patiently waiting.
“I have to talk to dad,” I informed.
Mom raised a brow, interested to why I wanted to have a conversation with dad.
“Why?” she coldly asked, I almost shivered at the tone of her voice.
Walking away, I replied, “I’m going to quit school.”
I heard her gasp.
“What? Wait, Drew,” she called but I didn’t turn back.
Her opinion doesn’t matter anyway. The only time she became a mother to me was when she carried me in her womb. After that, she didn’t care much about how I grew up. She was too engrossed living a luxurious life I bet she even forgot she had a son.
I entered dad’s office and he was sitting behind the table, folders in his hands. Nikita stood beside him, talking to him and when I came inside, they paused to look at me.
“What is it, Drew?” dad asked, not taking his eyes off of the paper he was holding.
“I’m going to New York.”
He almost dropped what he was holding after hearing what I just said.
“Excuse me? You’re going where?”
I saw his forehead creasing and his eyes flashing irritation but I ignored it. I realized Alyona and Valery were correct. I wanted to do this for myself before I leave everything and take over the Orlov group. I had a lot of things I wanted to do but being an heir of a Mafia family, it’s impossible to dream a normal life.
And I had no choice but to accept it.
“I’m going to New York,” I repeated.
I didn’t take my eyes off of dad. It’s weird but I feel confident.
“And why in the world are you going to New York?” he snapped, glaring at me.
“Because I won a photography contest,” I replied fast.
Dad stood up and he was gritting his teeth. He’s angry. Of course he would be. He was never happy with what I wanted in life.
“I told you countless of times to forget about photography, Drew,” he said, his fists clenching in anger, “you are the only who can take over the Orlov group! Do you have any idea how valuable your life is?!”
I didn’t flinch from his outburst. Instead, I walked towards dad.
I wanna be strong.
I don’t want to become Clark’s weakness.
I don’t want to become a crybaby anymore.
I’m going to become the leader of the Orlov family.
“I already accomplished something big for you, dad,” I said and he was taken aback by it, “I sealed an alliance with the Blaise family and that’s something you can’t even do.”
Dad gaped at me in pure disbelief and Nikita had the same face as well.
“If you want me to become the leader of your group, you’re going to do what I want.”
“You -- !”
I stopped him before he could curse me.
“After I come back from New York, I’m going to quit school.”
Dad gasped, “what?”
I was always firm with my decision that I wanted to finish school before I take over but change was constant and what I wanted now was different from before.
“I’m going to take your position, dad. I’m going to be the leader of the Orlov group.”
I left dad speechless in his office, unable to say anything back to what I declared. Isaac was waiting for me outside and seeing me, he stood up straight and faced me.
“What did he say?”
“You’ll be coming with me to New York,” I said, smiling at Isaac.
He blinked at me.
“Clark is unavailable and other than him, you’re the only one I can trust. I don’t need a ton of bodyguards. Two is enough,” I informed while walking away.
I’m going to prove to Clark that I could be strong like him. I would never be his weakness. The only way I could do to become strong was to dedicate myself in training and learning how the underground world works. At the back of my mind, I was still anxious about Clark, if he would ever come back to me but worrying wouldn’t do me any good.
Hiro told me Clark wanted me to be dependent on him but no. I’m not going to be the type of person couldn’t function without him.
This was the life intended for me and I’m gonna embrace it.
Isaac marched beside me, staring. I got fed up from the silent judging and I finally snapped.
“What?” I asked.
“You were full of doubts before but now…you know what you want,” he commented.
“There’s only one thing people want for me,” I mumbled.
“I’m sure you learned a lot when you went to Italy and met Hiro Blaise,” Isaac said in a quiet voice but I clearly heard it.
Stopping, I faced Isaac.
“I want to become strong.”
He stopped as well and looked at me.
“For the boss?” Isaac asked.
I nodded, smiling genuinely at him.
I decided to go to school one last time to meet Alyona and Valery. I didn’t pay any attention to my classed and when the bell rang, I sped out of the classroom while messaging Valery. While in the middle of sending her a message, a message suddenly popped in my screen.
My heart skipped a beat after seeing it was from Hiro’s number.
I stopped walking and stood in the corner of the busy corridor.
From Hiro B.
Hi, Drew. This is Paige.
So sorry I can’t reply back. I’ve been busy with my therapy.
I’m getting better now.
Clark already left. He didn’t tell us where he’s going but I’m sure he’ll come back to you.
He misses you a lot but things are complicated.
I miss you too.
I almost cried after reading his message. Relief washed over me and for the longest time, I actually felt like I could breathe properly again. The anxiousness I was feeling over Clark disappeared. I instantly replied back to Paige to thank him for replying.
To Hiro B.
You just made my day, Paige.
I’m so happy you texted back.
Btw, I’m going to New York to attend a photo contest.
I miss you too. I hope you feel even better.
I sent the message with a huge smile on my face. Everything’s falling to places. I went to the photography club room like what I said to Valery. I saw her waiting by the door, holding her bag and textbooks.
She saw me and waved a hand at me.
“Drew!” Valery called out, her grin reaching her ears.
I neared her, smiling back.
“Hi,” I greeted. “Guess what.”
“I’m going to New York!”
Valery gasped out loud. Her eyes brightened and she began jumping up and down before hugging me tight.
“Oh my god! I’m so happy, Drew!”
“Yeah, me too!” I said, hugging her.
The door of the club room opened and Alyona peeked, raising her brows at us.
“What’s the commotion, people?”
Valery let go of me, hugging Alyona’s arm.
“Drew’s going to New York!”
Her jaw dropped and she squealed, delighted by my news.
Alyona put an arm on my shoulder and winked at me.
“ViewFrame will handle everything, Drew. The only thing you have to do is pack your bags, fly to New York and become a famous photographer!”
“It’s so exciting!”
I smiled at the two of them, nodding.
“Yeah, it really is!”
I got home at around 6:30 in the evening. I entered the house with Isaac following me but before I could go upstairs and into my room, someone instructed me to go to dad’s office. I got a little nervous but did what I was told.
Isaac wanted to come with me but I told him to get some rest. His duties for me was done.
I climbed up the stairs and went straight to dad’s office. Entering the room, dad sat on the edge of the table with a tormented face. I closed the door behind me.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
He waited for a second to answer my question.
“I’m allowing you to go to New York.”
I didn’t want to be shocked by his decision. I’m all set to go to New York even without his permission but I wouldn’t lie, I was confounded.
“I want you to bring Ygor -- ”
For the second time, I interrupted dad.
“No. I’m bringing Isaac and Raul.”
Dad was ready to argue with me but I didn’t give him the opportunity.
“I don’t want to bring someone I don’t know. Isaac and Raul were with me when I went to Italy and I know I can trust them.”
Nikita stayed silent behind dad but she was impressed with me based from the way she was smiling.
Dad sighed in exasperation.
“Fine. When are you going to leave and how long will you stay there?”
“I’ll be leaving on Monday and I’ll stay there for a week.”
He pursed his lips. He obviously didn’t like the fact that I would be gone for a week.
“What about your lodgings?”
“The people who organized the contest will be providing me everything I need,” I answered.
I was ready to leave but froze when dad said, “remember what you said, Drew. You’ll leave everything after this.”
Turning back to look at him, I nodded.