We begin in the area of Kapotnya in Moscow, Russia with Anatoly where he is headed to the apartment where he grew up. Having not been there since he ran away, he is struggling with all the emotions that he had pushed to the back of his heart and mind. However, now, he knows that he must confront not only his feelings but also his family.
Funerals are strange things – strange business – because we find ourselves involuntarily going down memory lane. There is something about death that makes us recall a person’s life…how they lived…how they treated people closest to them and the most traumatic and endearing moments that we’ve had with them.
Even with all the bodyguards and fanfare, Anatoly found himself feeling utterly inferior. Of course, the people who lived in the project thought that he was a big deal, but his inner-circle could see his growing discomfort.
It all stemmed from the way he left home and why he left home (which I won’t spoil for you). The point is, no matter money you have, you buy the skeletons in the closet. Someone somewhere can always remember when.
Moving forward, the most enjoyable part of this chapter was writing the intro of Dmitry into the church during the funeral. Everyone was reading the story should have felt some sort of pain for Anatoly by now (if I did a good job).
You see him going through hell with his sister, who lays some heavy advise on him in their old apartment. Then his family treats him like a leper at the Church. And just when he feels somewhat defeated, the doors fly open to the church and in comes a parade of the Medlov family.
Have you ever been in a place alone and all you could think of is how you wished “your people” were there. You find yourself saying, “if this or that person were here this would be done or that would be said.” You feel out of your element because you don’t have your usual group around you. This is a normal feeling for anyone, but I’m sure that Anatoly truly felt it.
Then his father walks in. Dmitry is already beautiful, seven-feet tall, notorious and lethal. However, he’s also the father to this boy who was once a nobody, a throw-away. There is an immediate underdog achievement to acknowledge. By whatever means, the boy had pulled himself from the depths of poverty to the lap of luxury.
We’ve all celebrated the stories. Cinderalla. Oliver Twist. Annie. Great Expectations. We’ve all read the stories or watched the movies. In each story, we’ve watched someone who didn’t deserve to be treated horribly go through serious trials and tribulations to arrive at a moment of arrival. The funeral was Anatoly’s small point of arrival. He knew that everyone who had ever told him that he would end up being a big nothing had to eat their own words.
So when you read it, did you feel happy for Anatoly? Did you despise his siblings for treating him badly? Did you want them to eat their own words?
What is strange about Anatoly’s story is that while he did overcome, he was not the hero in this scene. His father was. We see this throughout the story, because even when Dmitry doesn’t want to be, he is always the alpha male.
For those who can’t quite remember Dmitry’s awesome entrance, check out the excerpt below:
In the back of the church, the doors flung open, bringing with it the light of day. Attention turned from the lonely casket and the drawn up ceremony at the front to the parade of men in the back. Anatoly clenched his jaw and turned to see Davyd, his father’s head bodyguard enter with his men and then a long, processional of Russian mafia elite, including his father, who carried his little sister, Anya, in his arms and his wife, Royal, on his arm.
Dressed in designer black and looking more regal than anyone else besides Anatoly in the entire church, they made their presence known. The whispers quickly turned into a low rumble by the small crowd as the pseudo-royalty proceeded to the very front with such audacity, it was perceived as pure entitlement.
Anatoly could feel the scowl on his brother’s face, even without turning around, but how he enjoyed it. Even the priest stopped talking and looked on baffled. The seven-foot tall, blonde notorious boss of Moscow slipped into the pew behind his son with his family and members of council in tow and sat down, while his twenty-man crew disbursed around the church.
Leaning forward and ignoring the attention, his father put his hand on Anatoly’s shoulder.
“Sorry that we are so late. Forgive my interruption. There was delay with my jet,” Dmitry said gracefully. He looked down the pew at his son’s brother and gave him a how-dare-you-look-at-me scowl and then turned his attention back to his son.
Arseny quickly averted his startled eyes to the front of the church again as his heart pounded out of his chest. He had never once seen the Boss in person, now to be so close was surreal.
“It is no interruption, papa,” Anatoly said, patting his father’s hand. “I am happy that you are here.” He turned and looked at the man in his face. He wanted his father to know his sincerity.
“What did you expect? We support our own, especially during bereavement.” Dmitry did not say it, but he knew that something had gone awfully wrong in his absence, and he intended to rectify any misperception that he would allow any disrespect of his son or the Vory v Zakone.
“Hi, Anatoly,” his little sister Anya waved, unable to hold her peace. “Can I sit up there with you?”
Anatoly smiled. He was relieved in ways words would simply not describe. “Da, come here,” he said, reaching for her. Picking the small three-year-old up, he pulled her across the pew and put her on his lap. She rustled around in her black lace dress and put her brother’s arms around her. Resting her head on his chest, she ran her small fingers up and down his arm and kicked her legs happily.
“Be good, Anya,” Royal warned barely above a whisper. “Remember what we talked about in the car. This is your brother’s time…not yours.” Dmitry’s beautiful young wife’s Southern American English accent drew even more attention.
It wasn’t enough that she was a breathtaking black woman dressed to the hilt with an air of entitlement that rivaled Putin’s, but she also flickered with every turn due to the many diamonds that her husband had adorned her with.
“I will, Mommy,” Anya answered obediently. She bent to her brother’s ear and whispered. “Mommy brought you a present to make you feel better.”
“Did she?” Anatoly humored her. “Well, we’ll get it after, eh?”
Anya nodded her head and turned her attention to the priest.
Suddenly, Anatoly did not feel alone anymore. His real family had finally arrived and in undeniable style.