*I am currently (as of 2/02/2013) looking for someone who would be willing to Beta different (mostly) one-shots dealing with the Chronicles of Narnia. Updates are definitely going to be sporadic, maybe even non-existent sometimes, but I am just looking for someone who can be available whenever. PM me if you're interested! Thanks!*
Wow, sorry it's been so long! I seriously thought I had posted this already! Well, here's the first chapter! Hope you enjoy it!
Chapter I: Send Me a Sign...
Anya took one last look at the orphanage that had been her home for the past ten years. While she had never really loved living in the dilapidated building, she had made a few friends there. She had grown to love the sweet children whose lives had been torn apart by the Bolshevik Revolution, just as her own had. She had always felt wanted among the children, despite the fact that the ugly manager seemed to truly hate her. Comrade Phlegmenkoff hadn't exactly welcomed the arrival of a proud, nameless "nobody" being dumped on her doorstep, and she took every opportunity to remind Anya of the fact. Not that Anya had ever really minded; her head had always been in the clouds, not down here in the dirty snow. She had always suffered from what Phlegmenkoff called "delusions of grandeur," dreams that whomever gave her the necklace Anya was now fingering would someday come and find her.
Whirling to face away from the iron fence, Anya turned her eyes once more to the beautiful little trinket that graced her neck. She had long since memorized every little contour of the simple pendant; the letters, though almost completely rubbed off at this point, were permanently etched into her mind. They danced around in the blackness when she closed her eyes, they haunted her every dream- both sleeping and waking.
The girl remembered with a smile the day she had discovered the small gear-shaped charm that had given her the first ray of hope.
The driver stopped as soon as he was out of Bakovsky's sight. I was sitting in the bed of the truck, freezing but refusing to complain. When he appeared before me, the callous expression he had worn when speaking to Bakovsky was replaced by one of tender kindness.
"Would you like to ride up front with me?" he asked. I've got some food in the cab." At the mention of food, my stomach began to rumble. I realized I couldn't remember my last meal, as I hadn't eaten anything all day. I looked at the old man, wanting nothing more than to accept his offer and get something to eat. But what if he was just like Bakovsky? I didn't want to chance getting hit again, but I felt cold and hungry and altogether miserable back here. At least in the cab there would be no wind, I mused... Finally I nodded to the man. I crawled forward until I was sitting on the tailgate with my short legs dangling.
"Do you want some help, little one?" the man asked. I shook my head and proceeded to hop to the ground. It wasn't very far, but it still hurt the balls of my feet when I landed on them. I stood and waited for the man to tell me what to do.
"Come around here," he said, leading me to the passenger side of the vehicle. He opened the door and lifted me easily into the cab. I sat against the cool leather seat and allowed myself to relax, if only for a moment.
"I'm Igor," the man said when he entered through the driver's side.
"I'm..." I trailed off, still unable to give a name. The idea that I didn't know who I was was a discouraging one, but this time I did not cry. I simply stared ahead as I said, "I don't know my name, Sir... I woke up this morning and I couldn't remember anything. I don't know where I live, or where my parents are... or what my name is..." Igor watched me sympathetically.
"Well," he said as we began to move again, "that simply won't do, will it?" I risked a glance in the direction of the old man. He smiled at me before returning his eyes to the road. "We'll have to find you a name. Do you have anything in mind?" I frowned; I hadn't given any thought to what my name was to be. I just wanted my old name back. Whatever my old name was...
"I don't know," I said finally. "I'll think about it."
"You do that. Are you hungry?" I nodded enthusiastically. Igor reached into a burlap bag that I hadn't noticed before and handed me a loaf of bread and a piece of cheese. I took it eagerly, giggling as I bit into it.
"Be careful, little one," Igor laughed. "That's all I have with me. If you eat it now, you won't have any later." I nodded and began to chew more slowly, concentrating with all my might on making the precious bread last.
"You remind me of my own daughter, God rest her," Igor stated sadly. I looked back up at the old driver.
"You had a daughter?"
"Anya," he acknowledged. "She was eight years old when she got sick."
"I'm eight years old!" I exclaimed. Then I blinked. Where had that come from? Why could I remember how old I was, but not who I was?
"Are you now?" Igor asked me. "Well, you're practically a young lady, aren't you?" Despite my confusion, I beamed at the compliment. "And a very pretty one at that."
We spent the rest of the ride talking. Or rather, he talked. I mostly listened and asked questions. Igor seemed delighted to have someone to talk to, and I was content to hear the stories he had to tell. He told me of his daughter, Anya, and how much she had loved pretty dresses. He also told me that he'd worked in the Winter Palace for the Romanov family for years, before his daughter had been born. When he mentioned the parties he had seen, I could almost see the scenes he laid out for me. I could almost hear the music that would have played, could almost smell the food. When I closed my eyes, I imagined myself at one of those parties. I saw myself dancing with a man and making silly faces at an old woman. I saw several girls dancing around me, each with her own partner. And I heard a melody... a song that rang hauntingly in my mind.
I opened my eyes, expecting to find myself in the ballroom, surrounded by the pretty colors and smells that I had seen only a moment ago. But I was still in the green truck, surrounded by snow and ice and the dreary grey sky. Igor was still talking, but I had stopped listening and couldn't make any sense of what he was saying. Something about fish. I wrinkled my nose; I didn't like fish. I blinked again. How did I know that I hated fish?
Igor interrupted my puzzled thoughts: "Well, little one, we're almost there. Have you got everything you need?" I nodded; I didn't have anything at all. I leaned back and sighed sadly. I had almost hoped that I could just go home with Igor. He had seemed so kind. Would the people at the orphanage be this nice? I hoped so.
I twisted in my seat, trying to find a more comfortable position, but when I tried to lean forward, something caught around my neck, causing me to jerk back. My hand flew to my throat, where I felt... something. I quickly took the small, cold thing in my palm and pulled it up so that I could see it. It was a pendant! A pendant hanging from a good chain! And there was something written on it! I squinted and brought the charm up to my eyes.
"Together in Paris..." I read. Igor looked at me.
"Did you say something, little one?" he asked. I returned his gaze.
"Together in Paris... Igor, look! I have a necklace that says 'Together in Paris!'"
"It's a very pretty necklace. Where did you get it?"
"I don't know... Do you think someone gave it to me?"
"What if someone in my family gave it to me!" I bubbled. "I could have someone who loves me in Paris!"
"Maybe," Igor agreed. "Do you think that's where you got it?" I didn't answer; all I could do was smile. Someone cared about me! Maybe I wasn't even an orphan! Maybe I had a family somewhere... somewhere in Paris!
"We're here, little one," Igor said, stopping the truck. "The People's Orphanage." I stared out the window, my spirit falling. The place was so ugly, so... gloomy! How could children be happy here?
Igor opened my door and helped me out of the truck. Before he put me down, I couldn't help but throw my arms around the kind old man's neck. In him, I'd found a friend, for however brief a time, and with him, I'd found a way to keep my hope alive during the awful days that were to come.
I waved goodbye as Igor drove away, then turned and rang the great iron bell beside the closed gates. A woman stomped out of the shadows of the orphanage and stood over me with her hands on her hips.
"I suppose you're from St. Petersburg?" she asked. "What's your name?" I turned to watch as Igor drove away. I wanted to find some way to thank him for the kindness he'd shown me. As the woman waited for my answer, I suddenly knew what to do. I looked back at her and said, "Anya. My name is Anya."
Anya felt a chill run up her spine when the memory faded. It was her earliest, most treasured scene, one that she remembered as vividly as if it had only happened yesterday. She had never seen that old man again, but the simple acts of kindness that he showed to a lonely child had not gone unnoticed. Anya thought of Igor now and then, and in her mind, the old man was associated with hope. Now, Anya was embracing the hope that she would finally make something out of herself. The young woman really had no intention of going to the Fisherman's Village; she wanted to go to Paris.
But leaving the orphanage would mean leaving everything familiar and real to Anya. By turning her back now, she was acknowledging that this chapter in her life was over. She currently had two options: she could go left, to the Fisherman's Village, where there was guaranteed a job and eventually a place to call home. If she went left, she would be admitting defeat, accepting the perpetual role of Anya the Nobody.
"But if I go right..." she mused, turning her head to the road that would take her to St. Petersburg. "Whoever gave me this necklace must have loved me..." To the right was a road that left Russia, a road that would take her to Paris... would it take her to a family?
"No, that's crazy," she laughed. "Me go to Paris?" There wasn't even real proof that her family was there. They could have moved, or even... Well, Anya refused to think like that. Besides, Paris was an enormous city... what were the chances of her finding one family out of thousands?
Anya had no idea how long she stood there, trying to decide. Should she take the safe road? Or should she pursue her family?
"Send me a sign!" she eventually called. She had always been taught that God could help her, if she would let Him. "A hint... anything!" No sooner had the girl sat down to wait than a little mottled ball of fur appeared from seemingly out of nowhere right beside her.
"Oh! Well, look at you!" Anya laughed. The puppy wagged his tail happily and crouched low, as if getting ready to pounce. Anya looked around and saw her purple scarf sticking out of her pocket. She rolled her eyes and stood, bringing the end of the cloth out of the dog's reach. "I don't have time to play," she said. The dog didn't seem to understand, for he simply leaped up and pulled the scarf right out of her pocket! Still wagging his tail, the puppy began to walk away.
"I really can't do this right now. I'm waiting for a sign..." she trailed off as her eyes rose to the sign above her. The arrow was pointing to St. Petersburg. "Oh, perfect," she sighed. "A dog wants me to go to St. Petersburg." Her eyes widened as she realized that this just might be the sign she had been waiting for... "Alright..." she continued, addressing the God who had answered her questions. "I can take a hint..." She stood and stared down the road that would lead her to her future... and possibly to her past, as well.
"Okay, Anya... you're going to Paris. All you have to do is take the first step..." The young woman just stood there, waiting. She could feel her heart beating inside her chest- how was it remaining in her body? This is where I need that courage I've always talked about, she thought. She raised her foot, prepared to take that first step...
"No! This is crazy! I can't just... go like that!" She turned around and started walking toward the Fisherman's Village. "Come on, Anya! You're here! Don't turn around, take that chance! What's the worst that could happen? Come on!" There wasn't any logical reason for her fear... She took one more breath and, before she could think about what she was doing, turned and ran for the great city. She didn't dare stop until the towering sign was out of her sight. "No turning back now..." She continued to walk forward, forcing herself to forget about the life she was leaving behind. She just stared ahead, willing the great spires of St. Petersburg to appear before her. She'd been to the city before; Comrade Plegmenkoff occasionally took the elder children there to get supplies that could not be acquired in the Fisherman's Village, so she knew the way fairly well. She knew that it would take at least a day to get even as far as the outskirts of St. Petersburg, but even still... the road seemed so much longer than it ever had before...
"What if they aren't even there?" the girl asked, looking down at the puppy. "What if I go all the way to Paris and I can't even find them?"
Just calm down, Anya. Take it easy; you're in no hurry. One foot in front of the other. Focus on getting to St. Petersburg; don't try to take on all your hopes at once. We'll cross one bridge at a time...
With this in mind, the young woman squared her shoulders, determined to be cheerful and fearless. What had she to fear? She was finally on her way to discover who she was! Surely this journey would get her to a place where she could face her past... and find a future.
All those years of dreams and hopes... they surely can't be wrong! Somewhere out there... there's someone waiting for me. Someone who loves me... a family. I have to have had a family! With a new resolution she'd talked herself into, Anya began to skip. And I won't stop till I've found them! Anya kept walking, unaware of the miles slowly slipping away. By the time the sun was setting, she stood on top of a hill overlooking the cityscape she had been hoping to see since that morning.
Finally... she had made it! Anya had, at long last, taken the first step required to find out who she really was...