Scars and Healing
We stayed in Russia for another week. At first it was because Viviana wasn't ready to fly home. But it really became about us, and being alone, and getting to know each other all over again. We rarely left the room, and we made love and fucked so often I felt like we were on our honeymoon. Nikolai insisted I wear the clothes I'd packed, and he took great delight in claiming that part of me. Andrei always said he liked me naked, but Nikolai loved me any way he could get me.
I'd worried so much that he wouldn't be able to accept me if he really knew me, but I was wrong. He embraced the side of me that wanted – needed to be debased and used. It was like he was suddenly unrestrained and uncontrollably passionate. It's like he went from being a great lover, to being my lover. He seemed to understand right away, that by being selfish and using me to satisfy whatever needs or desires he had – satisfied me. He became more creative, knowing I would refuse him nothing. Even when we were tired and spent, he would tell me of other things he wanted to do with me. I was constantly aware of him; his looks, his touches, his very nearness made me crave him.
But it wasn't all about the sex. He really did want to hear all the details of my past. I told him some of the things I'd done during my week in Hell. The orgies and group sex I'd been involved in didn't shock him; he'd expected it was going to be extreme. He held me when I cried over the one thing that shamed me most:
They'd brought in a novice – she must have been about fourteen – and she was terrified. They made me perform oral sex on her while two men held her down. I knew what they were going to do to her, and I did my best to make her receptive. They made me help hold her down while they took turns raping her. She screamed and begged them – begged us – to stop. We were the same age, but I'd been a part of her initiation into something that was still trying to wreck my life. I often wondered and worried about what happened to her. I didn't even know her real name.
Each memory that tore itself out of me brought fresh grief and self-loathing. I think he knew some of the things I'd been through, but it was the details that got to him. It was the details that had impressed themselves on my teenage brain and came out in so many inappropriate ways. Like how the smell of Roberto's aftershave could put me right back in the moment he'd first raped me. Even things Nikolai did in all innocence, sometimes sent me reeling from a triggered memory. But now I could tell him, and it felt a little bit like exorcising demons.
After our week in Russia, we flew home. Viv stayed behind, wanting to see more of the country, and learn more of the immense network Andrei controlled. Once we were home, I was again wife and mommy. Alexander had missed us so much and I was overwhelmed at how close I'd come to losing him and our precious family.
But home didn't mean we went back to the way things were. Alexander had naps and an early bedtime, and Nikolai and I embarrassed our nanny a time or two, but she quickly learned to stay in her suite while he slept.
For a while, he didn't go back to his crew. He didn't steal – not even one car – or even go to any of the garages where they were stripped. He was mine. The sex was beyond anything I'd expected. But he wanted to do something with me that would be something we could share outside the bedroom. I suggested dancing, but he immediately recognized that I'd been Andrei's partner, and he said he wasn't ready for that.
Instead he signed us both up for fencing. "Just think of it as a really long nail file," he grinned. I hated it at first. He was trained with swords, and the fencing came easily to him. But he wouldn't let me quit, and when I was tired and my muscles ached, he gave me intense massages. By the time my pregnancy began to be an issue, I really didn't want to give it up. I loved the feeling of power it gave me, knowing I was strong enough to protect myself.
I was over six months pregnant when he scheduled an appointment with a psychologist. He'd done the research, and asked Veronica's lover, Allison for recommendations. He didn't ask me or warn me, he just took me to meet Doctor Zeiffer. As soon as I realized the building we pulled up to had nothing to do with baby furniture as he'd told me, I became angry.
"You can be angry all you like Suzanna, but we are going to see him.
"I don't need some head doctor to try to analyze me, Nikolai. I'm not going to tell a perfect stranger about what I've done, and even if I could, what difference will it make?"
"That's why you need to see him. You've been telling me, and I will continue to listen. But I can't say the right thing to fix it. I don't know how to help you. Dr. Zeiffer is an expert. I've read all about him, and I think we need to try this. For the sake of the kids if nothing else." It was my biggest weakness, and he knew it.
We knew from the ultrasound we were expecting a daughter. The knowledge had sent me into a bit of a panic of worries and fears. I was a mess for almost a week, just positive that I wasn't going to be able to protect her from the predators who would use her. It was a week of painful memories, and Nikolai had made love to me with gentleness to ease my fears and reassure me that men could be different. Even though I was obviously pregnant and even though I had so many issues, I continued to crave my husband physically. The need never took a day off. Sometimes it was the only way I knew to feel connected.
And so we were arguing in front of a a posh office building. Nikolai thought I could be fixed, but I knew it was too late."I didn't think you wanted me to spend time with another man." He wasn't put off my by jokes or my anger. "Fine. I'll meet him. But it's just a waste of time and money." And still I sat, not wanting to get out of the car. I couldn't look at him.
"Suzanna, tell me." He turned my face to his, knowing I had a secret to share. "I love you."
"Are you trying to fix me because you're tired of me? Am I too much of a problem?" I hated the tiny baby voice that spoke the words. He grabbed me and pulled me to him as best he could across the center console of the car.
"I love you, and I'm never going to get tired of you. I just want you to be happy."
"Then take me home and fuck me." I turned my eyes up to him in the way that usually made him give in.
"No. Not until we've seen the doctor." He grinned wolfishly. "Then I'll be more than happy to take you home and fuck you."
We went in together to see the doctor, and I clung to his hand. But my first sight of Dr. Angelo Zeiffer took my breath away. He was my type – he was so much my type I had trouble just shaking his hand. He was gorgeous; tall and slim with olive skin, brown eyes and dark slightly curling hair. He wore cream pants, and a light blue shirt with the sleeves rolled up to below his elbows. His silk tie looked expensive, as did his watch. It surprised me how young he looked. He didn't look like he could even be thirty. I was imagining him naked when he told us to have a seat. Nikolai pulled me down beside him, squeezing my hand.
"So, what can you tell me about your situation?" We were on a couch, but he perched on the rolled arm of a chair in that casual way some men have. He leaned forward, long elegant fingers on his thigh. I couldn't say a thing.
"Unresolved childhood sexual abuse." Nikolai's voice cut through my haze. He was talking about me, but it didn't feel like me. The doctor asked more questions, and Nikolai answered, while I watched him take notes, cross his ankle over his knee, and brush a wayward lock of hair from his forehead. No wedding band, and no pictures of wife or kids in evidence.
"Do you mind if I call you Antoinette, or do you prefer Suzanna?" His voice was so calm. And those eyes, just looking at me, reading me maybe.
"Call me Toni." I smiled brightly, and tried not to look at Nikolai. The doctor smiled back warmly, then glanced at Nikolai.
"I think now would be a good time for me to speak with your wife alone." Nikolai kissed my cheek and left me there. The doctor sat on the coffee table right in front of me. His legs were parted and he leaned forward with his elbows on his knees. He smelled good.
"How do you feel about being here, Toni?" He was so close, I could reach out and touch him – run my hand along his inner thigh...
"I'm fine... a little nervous." I smiled shyly.
"That's understandable. How do you usually react when you're nervous? Some people bite their nails, some people pace the floor. How do you usually deal with feelings of nervousness – Toni?" He was watching me intently, and I couldn't take my eyes off him. His lips looked so sensuous, and his teeth were white and even.
"I don't really think I have any nervous habits. I worry a lot, but I don't bite my nails." I held up my manicured hands to show him. "See, all ten alive and well." He took one of my hands as if he were looking at my nails, then he held it in both of his. His hands were warm and strong.
"You're more than just a little nervous being here, aren't you Toni?" The way he said my name was like a caress. He still had my hand, and I could feel his fingers gently tracing over my skin. "Doesn't it worry you that I may not be able to do anything to help you?" His fingers massaged my palm, my wrist, and the back of my hand. And he watched me. I could barely breathe. I thought about climbing onto his lap, I thought about how I wanted to run my fingers through his hair. I thought about what his beautiful face would look like when he came.
"I can't be fixed. Nothing to be nervous about, it's just the truth. "
"Tell me about that truth." He still held my hand, and my eyes. He was so compelling. I wanted to take off his tie and loosen his collar. I wondered if he had dark chest hair, or would he have a bare chest. He had firm forearms, I imagined he worked out. "Toni?"
"I'm... I really don't want to talk about it now." He let go of my hand, like some kind of penalty for breaking the rules. I reached out and took his again. I wanted to feel his fingers on me. "The truth is, I like to have sex." I held his eyes with mine. "I'm good at it – very good. I'm not normal. Even now, with my husband in the waiting room, I want to have sex with you. That's all I've been able to think about since I walked in." Maybe the truth would shock him.
"So what's stopping you? We're alone, Toni." He watched me intently.
"Nikolai. It would hurt him."
"It doesn't hurt you? Do you really think it would be acceptable for me to have sex with you? It wouldn't demean you? It wouldn't be an abuse of your trust? You wouldn't see that as being used?"
"What if I was the one doing the using?"
"Using me for what? What do you get out of having sex, Toni?"
"If it's my choice... if it's on my terms... it makes me feel powerful."
"Does it really make you feel powerful, or is it just the only refuge you know how to find?" I dropped his hand. It was clear he wasn't going to take me up on my open invitation. I felt angry all the sudden.
"It's because I'm pregnant, isn't it?" His eyes widened in surprise. "Don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about. If I wasn't pregnant, would it be my husband? Maybe some code of ethics? It would be just one excuse after another though, am I right?"
"You feel rejected because I don't want to have sex with you."
"I suppose you're going to tell me you were just being friendly and you didn't know what you were doing?"
He stood up and walked around to his desk. "I want to see you again next week." He looked over his desk and smiled at me. "And no, not to have sex. I think I can help you." Again his beautiful smile. "I specialize in cases like yours, and I'd like to disagree with you – you are normal for someone who's been traumatized the way you have been. You have some of the classic coping mechanisms that typically arise when children are sexually abused. But you already knew that. I think there's a lot that we can work on to find you some better ways to cope with stress. We can work on helping you through your fears of rejection, and help you to form healthy relationships and attachments."
He picked up something from his desk and came over and sat on the table again. "I confess, I pushed your buttons. I wanted to see if you would let down your guard and be honest." He showed me the picture he'd taken from his desk. "This is my partner Scott, and his daughter Sara. You didn't stand a chance." He smiled briefly. "I can help you; I've been where you are. Molesters and abusers sometimes like cute little boys. My stepfather was my abuser. There's not a thing you can tell me that I haven't heard or experienced before." He stood again and put the picture back on his desk "Of course, I've broken so many of the rules in telling you this, but I've found it helps get past a lot of wasted effort if my patients know they're talking to someone who really understands. When's the baby due?"
"In ten weeks." I held my stomach, suddenly guilty over what I'd been prepared to do.
"We should be able to get a lot accomplished before your baby arrives. I'm recommending an hour a week with you alone, and maybe an additional hour if your husband wants to be involved. That would be up to you entirely. Are you ready to start putting the pieces of your life back in order?" He sat on the rolled arm of the chair again, but I didn't notice his body, or even his pretty face. I noticed the file he had in front of him with my name on it. It was my full name, and it barely fit on the tab.
"Yes." I dared to hope.
Afterward I fell into Nikolai's arms and he walked me to the car and helped buckle me into the seat. He was quiet. We were halfway home before I turned and accused him. "You knew he was gay, didn't you?"
He couldn't hide the smile that crept onto his face. "I did my research. Allison recommended I find someone who wouldn't be tempted by you. When I saw his picture I was worried, but as soon as I met him I knew." He looked over at me and grinned. "Do you think I'd trust my wife alone with a young good looking doctor who was 'her type?' If he tried anything with you, I would have to keel him.' I was embarrassed that he knew I'd be attracted to the doctor. But it was also strangely comforting that he knew me so well.
In eight weeks the file on me filled up. A.Z. really did know what he was doing, and I was always welcome to look through the file if I wanted to. "You're not dangerous to yourself or others, Toni. This is about recovery, not about keeping some secret file. It's mostly notes so I don't forget the particulars in your case. You'd be surprised how similar some of your memories are to others I've treated. It's like these perpetrators have some kind of play book they pass around." It was what I needed to hear. Not that it made me feel good to know there were so many victims, but I wasn't alone. I wasn't the most foul thing to crawl out of the shadows.
A week before her due date, our daughter made her appearance. Natasha Alana Korsikov came into the world screaming, after putting me through twenty hours of labor and a little screaming of my own. With a head full of dark curls and black eyes she completely captured me. Alexander had come with so many worries and tests, but Tasha was perfect. If I was captivated by her, Nikolai was even more so. It was the realization of a dream to see him holding his little girl in his tattooed arms. For a month, all was calm. We were parents to a newborn and a three year-old.
I didn't say anything, but Nikolai had stepped away from his theft ring without any fanfare, leaving it in the hands of his second in command. After my three-week check up, I eased back into my fencing lessons. I didn't wait that long to resume my appointments with Dr. A.Z. I carried Tasha with me whenever I went since she was a constant reminder of why I was there. A.Z. outlined several goals that we would strive for, and he surprised me when he said there would definitely be an end date.
"This isn't something that you'll need for years. Your memories and experiences are going to be with you, but we're going to help you to manage them. They don't need to control your life. You are absolutely not going to be a victim your whole life." He took my hand then, one of the few times he ever touched me after our first meeting. "I won't tell you what was done to me, but I will tell you healing is possible." I was starting to believe him.
Tasha was two months old when I got the letter. The postage covered half the envelope. I was shaking when I sat down, and I was terrified to open it. Tasha was sleeping, and Alexander was playing a game with the nanny. Nikolai was in the garage making some kind of adjustment to his newest sports car – he really loved cars.
I stared at the fat envelope for a long time. I got up and made a cup of coffee then sat down to it again. I felt like it could bite me. I felt I should give it to Nikolai, but it was addressed to me alone. I slit the envelope and took out the folded pages. The tears in my eyes made the words blur at first.
I will assume Nikolai is reading this too, so do not worry I will write something too personal.
I had to stop and wipe the tears from my eyes.
Congratulations on the birth of your daughter. I am humbled by the name you chose. If she looks like her mother I'm sure she is beautiful. I hope this letter finds you healthy and happy. I have worried about you a great deal considering the way we parted.
I feel it is time to fully explain what you may have heard through communicating with your family. I need to tell you and once and for all close the door I left open to you.
When you left here, I thought it would kill me. Even spending only two weeks each year with you was enough to look forward to and sustain me in my dark loneliness.
When she came the next day, I thought she was you. I wouldn't have let her in if I had known how she would affect me. Viviana is a force of nature, and she seemed to take the greatest delight in pushing every one of my buttons. At first she talked business like a man. She wanted you out of everything, and she wanted your place. If she didn't already have your family's connections, I would have …. dealt with her severely.
But she is a smart one. She easily learned your part in the network, and she would have learned more but the hour grew late. I offered her a guest room so we could continue our work the next day. I will say here only that my first nights without you were difficult.
As soon as breakfast was finished she wanted to go to work. She began picking at every piece of the business, asking why I did things the way I did. Her suggestions for changes at first made me angry. But she again and again reminded me that we were in a different century, and we needed to take advantage of the technology or it would make us weak. She reminded me how she'd tracked you with your phone. Then she showed me how inadequate my security was when she broke into my room. If I was impressed with the way you memorized the code, imagine how shocked I was when your sister bypassed the whole system entirely.
I was changing clothes when she came in as if she were invited. She chided me for using such an outdated system, but somewhere in the middle of explaining how she broke in, we became conscious of each other as a man and a woman. I want to spare you the details, you know me well enough to guess what happened. At first I wanted her because of her similarity to you. But that similarity disappeared very quickly. Viviana is her own woman.
Anna, I know the things that have been done to you were also done to her. But she has come further in her acceptance, even though she still has scars and pain. Perhaps because she wasn't alone in her suffering. She still has such a fatalistic outlook – I understand it very well. But it is not so much a raw and open wound in her.
In the seven months she's been with me, she has helped me put to rest some of the demons that have plagued me. She is teaching me how to control my temper, and I am teaching her to speak Russian, and how to ride the horses. She loves my Orlov Trotter, and her mouth has healed quite nicely.
Anna, I want to apologize for all the pain I caused you. I was a drowning man and you kept me from going under for the last time. I almost took you down with me, and we would have both been lost. It was wrong of me to come between you two, I only hope I have not caused permanent damage. Some day I hope for reconciliation within our family. I would never have hoped for that if not for you and your sister. I want to thank you for giving me the hope that allowed for the possibility of love.
Anna, I held onto your memory, even while she got under my skin. In two months she'd spent more time with me than you ever had, and yet I insisted I still loved you. I was a fool! We fought, she left, and I was forced to face the fact that I was in love with her. I confessed, I begged, I promised, and I won her back.
She is too young for me. I don't deserve her, and yet I don't want to live without her. Anna, when you left I promised I would always love you and I would always have a place for you at my side. I'm afraid that is no longer true. I will give you any support if you ever need it. But my heart belongs to the woman who grew up idolizing you. I need to make it clear that I am no longer pining for you. I am in love, Anna! Joyfully, deliriously, hopefully in love.
With this letter I hope to put to rest all unfinished business between us. I'm sending you a box of things I didn't think you would accept before now; your fur, the clothes you wore that night, and your jewelry from the night you were kidnapped. Please accept the things with no strings attached.
I want to marry her. I've bought the ring, and I just need the right time to ask her. She's young, and maybe... dare I hope? Maybe we could have a family. It is not the Vory way. I may need to step away from that life. What used to be of critical importance to me, doesn't matter at all in comparison. Perhaps it is the mark of an excellent thief to know when to walk away?
In closing, I hope you have found the happiness you deserve. As you said to me; you are worth loving. When you find love, you must hold it tight and never let it go.
P.S. Don't think I haven't realized Viviana and I are both twins. And also, if we marry, you will be my sister-in-law, and Nikolai will be both my nephew and my brother-in-law, and our children would be cousins.
I put the letter down and wiped my eyes. I still had a silly grin on my face when Nikolai came in and kissed my cheek. I handed him the letter and watched the kaleidoscope of emotions cross his face. When he finished, he put the letter down and just looked at me. Then he smiled.
"It sounds like the old man's got it bad. I almost feel sorry for him; the Pryzzetti women are definitely hard to handle."
"Well, it's a good thing I'm a Korsikov woman, isn't it?" I stood and put my arms around him.
He pulled me close and joined our lips in one of his soft, slow, promising kisses. "It's a very good thing. Would this Korsikov woman be interested in joining her husband upstairs for an hour or so of..."
"...lovemaking?" I grinned. "Or maybe you'd prefer fu..." His hungry mouth cut me off, and I giggled into his kiss. He scooped me up and carried me off to our room. It didn't matter anymore what we called it, we loved each other, and that was what always came out when we were together. Sometimes it wasn't pretty, but it was always real.
I'd like to say that we went off into our happily ever after, but my life has never been a fairy tale. I can tell you it's been five years since my husband went to Russia to bring back his cheating wife, and I have not cheated since then. I did eventually reach the end of my therapy, and I was finally able to see that no matter what happened when I was an abused teenager, my life is my own. A.Z. taught me that no matter what reasons or emotions bubble up from my past, it is my choices and actions in the present that matter most. It took me a while to get to that point, and there were times I drove my poor husband crazy.
The fencing actually became a stress release I learned to turn to when my life felt out of control. I love the focus, the strength, and the control it takes, and it's a bonus that Nikolai can do it with me. He's teaching me some of the sword techniques he learned in Russia, along with the martial arts style he learned I feel as close to normal as I ever imagined.
Of course normal is a dream when you have a big family like ours. We had another little girl two years after Tasha, and a baby boy who's not yet a year old. Nikolai wants one or two more children. I don't know about that, but as our youngest has started crawling I think maybe one more...
Nikolai is a great daddy. The kids absolutely own him, and he gives pony rides on his back, plays hide-n-seek, and tickle monster with the greatest enthusiasm. He once let Tasha color in his tattoos with magic markers to make them "pretty." I don't think I ever loved him more than I did when I watched our three year-old daughter sitting on his stomach, while he was sprawled out on the floor shirtless, letting her color on his chest. She totally adores her daddy, and I know he will always be her champion.
Nikolai slowly took himself out of the business of stealing cars. Little by little it just stopped being important to him. When Alexander started playing soccer, Nikolai was the assistant coach, and now he coaches the team. I know for a fact that Alexander won't be part of a criminal network. The Korsikov's and Pryzzetti's have let go of almost all criminal activity. We are involved in investments. Mostly it's stocks, but there are several businesses we've bought out, or funded from the beginning, and they are successful now.
Because we're so close to legit, we've almost been granted a reprieve from arrest. Technically Nikolai is an escaped felon. All the murders he was associated with, have since been attributed to Pablo Hernandez. Had he remained in prison, he would have been released years ago. We've never discussed it, but I believe Justin has helped to bury the case. Belinda told me at our wedding that Justin told his superiors Nikolai was back in Russia. I assume he never told them he'd returned.
Nikolai's family finally had their reconciliation when Grigori Korsikov died too peacefully in his sleep two years ago. His funeral was more eventful than my wedding, complete with a drunken brawl which strangely united the Korsikov men.
My sister Viviana has yet to accept Andrei's proposal. They live together in Russia – husband and wife in all but name. Next month she's going to make him a father. Nikolai and I have already planned to fly to Russia in the summer when Alex and Tasha are out of school. He wants the children to see his homeland, and meet their newest cousin. I've already told Viviana to hide the vodka – we are their invited guests.
I've been worried about Nikolai lately. Together we manage our investments and business ventures, but he seems so restless. He keeps busy, especially with the children, but he's not the kind of man who can relax and be complacent. He works out daily, but he says it's like being a soldier training for a war that never comes.
I'm feeling a little optimistic. Last week we got a phone call from Ray. He's finally gotten an award from the state for what they did to him. Considering all he lost, it wasn't much, but he came away with half a million dollars and a formal apology. Ray has a business proposal that has Nikolai excited. Ray wants to turn his settlement into Second Chance School. His vision is of a place where former convicts can learn valuable life skills, along with a mentoring program. He's asked Nikolai to help him.
It would mean a lot of changes for us; most importantly moving. But I haven't seen Nikolai so excited for a while. With the mention of the school, Nikolai shared with me that he'd like to teach some kind of classes in self-defense, street sense, and evasive driving techniques. I love to see him excited over something that won't get him arrested. I love the idea of him using his criminal skills in a more positive way.
It seems so strange we've been together so many years. Neither of us is the same as we were when we fled into the night practically naked. I still thank whatever divine providence sent him through my door out of the hundreds of choices. When I let myself think about it, I can only come up with the conclusion that God works in mysterious ways. Somehow the perfect man found me. Even through all of our ups and downs, we've managed to hold on to that connection we formed when we were hiding in the top of that garage. It was then that I knew I belonged to him, and that has never changed.
He broke in and took me out of my false life, and he's fulfilled every promise he ever made. My Nikolai is the love of my life. He's always been an excellent thief, but more than that, he's an excellent man.
a/n: I don't know how to thank you for following this tale to the end. I could have ended it a couple times before now, and maybe I should have. But it feels good to finish it - including the second draft of corrections with added chapter titles. I promised I wouldn't touch it again, and I won't.
I had a love/hate relationship with this story all the way through. The graphic sex embarrasses me, and I don't use profanity at all myself. Still I loved the writing! I think I've become a better writer than I was when I started this. I do aspire to be a published author, and if/when that happens, I'll want this story to disappear. I hope to write something worthy of my readers, and this isn't it!
If you're a reader who found this long after it was completed, please take a second and tell me what you thought of it. You can't possibly criticize it more than I do.
Since finishing this story I've started another one you might be interested in reading. It's called Players Only Love You When They're Playing, and it's from a man's POV. As much as I hate all the outrageous sex and profanity in this story, I've gone and done it again. The first few chapters may make you want to wear a haz/mat suit to keep from getting any on you, but it gets better when the plot comes in.