VERA (Part 2 of 5). It was cold and dark. The night was young. Or old. And it was November. Or December. I didn’t really know what day or time it was. Since I had sold everything and started living on the street outside the departmental store, I just knew that it was cold and I was hungry.
Like everyday, I thought about days where I could be warm and wanted. Where I could actually live the life I wanted, but without compromising the person I wanted to be. I tried to convince myself that day would come. It had to.
But when I thought back to how I looked at my reflection in the store’s glass window every morning as I got dressed for more job scouting, I felt some of my hope slip away. I had worked as a shop girl and a street vendor and in a liquor store but nothing could put a roof above my head.
Roof. I opened my eyes and looked at the sky, trying to decipher if it was going to snow again. It definitely was; and I didn’t think that my fragile coat or I could take another night in the wet cold.
From the corner of my eye, I saw a man staring me down. I could see the gold coins in his shirt pocket, and a diamond ring that was worth more than the food needed to feed every homeless person in the city.
I looked up at the cloud about to burst above me, and then at the creepy man again. It was cold and dark and I was hungry. But I would survive #LumSalutes
VERA (Part 5 of 5). I looked at Madame du Leb sleeping peacefully and smiled. I put the injection away, and noted down the dosage we had given her and her heart rate.
“Make sure to get this to Doctor Sergei before the Madame’s night dose,” I said, handing one of our ladies the piece of paper. I had been working on a cure for certain sexually transmitted diseases for a few months now, and sending him my findings so he could publish them and get us access to the drugs we needed. Given our first hand experience with the diseases and decades old ways of dealing with them, we were very close to some major breakthroughs. Sure, Sergie would get to take the credit for our discoveries. But we would get to save the Madame’s life.
“Mademoiselle, there is a man out front asking for you,” one of my ladies said.
“I am not taking customers right now,” I reminded her gently. I was too focused on running the mansion and take care of the Madame.
“I don’t think he’s a a — customer, Mem,” she stammered.
I nodded at her and made my way to the visitor’s hall. As soon as I had sat on the stage in the Madame’s seat, I ordered the guards to let him in.
“Vera,” he said, as soon as the veiled door was lifted.
I froze. Vlad.
“What do you want?” I asked him, somehow managing to keep my calm.
“Some privacy, for starters,” he said, looking at all our ladies in the room.
“Whatever you wish to say to me, you can say in front of my ladies,” I said.
He looked at me quizzically. I didn’t budge.
“All right then. I’ve come here to marry you. Pack your things. Let’s go,” he said simply.
“No,” I said.
“No?” he asked, clearly confused.
“No,” I repeated, “I am not going to marry you.”
“But you love me!” he tried.
“Loved. Past tense. In a different life,” I said coolly.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Vera. You’re just a prostitute for God’s sake!” he said, as his anger rose, “Besides, I’m the Mayor! I could have this silly little establishment of yours shut down if I wanted!”
“Why don’t you come up here, Vlad?” I asked, inviting him to the stage.
“I knew you’d come around,” he said with a smirk as he walked up to me.
“You see, at first you came with honor and integrity and love. The second you left me on the streets, all of that was destroyed,” I said, echoing his words from the painful night that had changed my life forever.
I watched his face twitch as he decided how to react.
“Also, why don’t you take a look around?” I said, slightly coy.
I directed his gaze to the chambers upstairs, all of which were visible from our seat. Even through the veils, we could see the military uniforms of different countries as well as Russian intelligence hanging by the entrance; and sounds of ecstasy as our ladies cracked their whips.
I watched Vlad’s face turn white and smiled.
“You might be Mayor of the town, but don’t forget that we hold the keys to the entire kingdom. If I were you, I would choose my next moves very carefully,” I whispered in his ear.
He looked up at me, with the arrogance in his eyes being rightfully replaced by fear.
“Ladies, please escort this man out of our mansion. There is nothing left for him here,” I announced.
I stood up and walked away to the Madame’s chambers. I could feel him staring after me as he knelt dumbfounded near Madame’s seat #LumSalutes